The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: Cloud computing

Microsoft's Office 365 to take on Google Apps in cloud software race


Microsoft Corp., the 800-pound gorilla of the software world, is hoping it can lift itself into the cloud.

In announcing the general release of Office 365, the online version of its ubiquitous Microsoft Office suite that includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, the Redmond, Wash., software giant is looking to catch up to rival Google Inc. in the race to move business software off local computers and into the “cloud” of online data centers.

Cloud proponents say companies can cut technology costs by getting rid of their own servers -- which are expensive and require frequent maintenance and security updates -- in order to allow technology firms like Microsoft and Google to handle the hard work of supplying business' computing needs.

Starting at a monthly fee of $6 per user for the most basic version, Office 365 will allow businesses to store and edit documents online, and communicate via instant message or video chat as they work on projects together, an element Microsoft said would allow workers to get more done.

"What happens when Microsoft Office meets the cloud?" said Chief Executive Steve Ballmer at a presentation Tuesday.  "Collaboration happens in addition to productivity, anywhere for any business of any size."

Though Microsoft has for years had a cloud element to its Office suite, the company has struggled to catch up to Google in the online software race.  The search giant says its Google Apps software is used by 3 million businesses and 30 million people around the world.

Still, that number is a small fraction of the 1 billion global users Microsoft says its has for its traditional Office suite, which for years has been its best-selling product.  In 2010, Microsoft's Business Division, which makes Office, was responsible for 30% of the company's $64 billion in annual revenue. 

As companies increasingly buy into the advantages of the cloud, an array of high-profile companies including Google, Amazon and IBM are competing to be the provider of choice. But with a huge existing customer base, Microsoft is looking convince its users that moving to the cloud will be easier and less risky if they stick with the familiar Microsoft Office.

"The reality is that Microsoft already has these customers, and should easily be able to retain them," said Brad Reback, an analyst at Oppenheimer and Co.  "Businesses in general, especially with something as critical as email, are loathe to switch companies like that."

Google quickly shot back, however, posting a list of reasons it believes Microsoft's product is inferior.

"Upgrading platforms and adding features results in systems that are increasingly difficult to manage and complex to use," the company wrote in a blog post.  "At times like these, it's worth considering a clean-slate: an approach based on entirely modern technologies, designed for today’s world."


Apple sued over its use of iCloud name

Google product doesn't really have security credential, DOJ says

Google Cloud Connect moves Microsoft Office files to Google Docs

-- David Sarno

Image: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at the launch of the company's Microsoft 365 cloud service in New York. Credit: Ray Stubblebine / Reuters

Software bug exposed Dropbox users' accounts to others


The accounts of people using Dropbox, a cloud computing service, were accessible to other users during a nearly four-hour period Sunday.

The breach was caused by a software update that affected the authentication mechanism of the service, the company said. Dropbox allows users to store files -- which can be anything including documents containing personal data and picture files -- on remote servers that are accessible from anywhere in the world.

Dropbox, which announced in April that it had more than 25 million users, said in a blog post Monday that only 1% of its users logged in while the window was open. It said it was "conducting a thorough investigation of related activity to understand whether any accounts were improperly accessed."

"This should never have happened," Arash Ferdowsi, the company's founder, said in the post. "We are scrutinizing our controls and we will be implementing additional safeguards to prevent this from happening again."

The bug exposed Dropbox user accounts beginning about 1:54 p.m. Pacific time and was discovered by the company at 5:41 p.m. Five minutes later it had fixed the problem, Dropbox said.

Dropbox, which has boasted that it can safely keep people's files online, has to take care of its security, said Tin Zaw, the Los Angeles chapter president of the Open Web Application Security Project, a nonprofit organization focused on raising security awareness among Internet users and developers.

"Small companies are often under intense pressure to grow, and they sometimes forget about security," he said. "Security is very important in cloud computing and Dropbox should've done a better job."

Dropbox recently also came under scrutiny when it updated its terms of service, informing users that it would decrypt users' files and give the government access to them if asked. Zaw said that was comparable to storing something in a bank safe-deposit box, but letting the bank keep both the box and the key to access it.

"If you want to keep something secret, you put it in the box and lock it, but you keep the key yourself," he said.


Teen hacking suspect arrested in U.K.; LulzSec denies he's a member

Sega hit by cyber attack; 1.3 million user accounts accessed

Hacker groups LulzSec and Anonymous in pact to attack government websites

-- Salvador Rodriguez

ICANN approves open Web domain name rules: .anything is possible

Icann Move over .com, get ready for .anything .you .can .think .of.

The body that controls the way Internet domain names work, known as ICANN, has voted to open up the naming system so that any established organization with enough cash can apply to create its own version of .com, .org or .gov. 

In the for-profit world, that means that instead of going to or, you might be able to go to drink.coke or  Nonprofit groups could reserve the .school domain and hand one out to every elementary school.  Cities could consolidate their online presence at .nyc or .losangeles.  And interest groups could stake out their own corner of the Web by offering every auto junkie a .car domain name, every law firm a .law address, and every restaurant a site that ended with .food.

But just like real estate in the real world, this new virtual land won't come cheap.  The price tag to get a new domain created is $185,000.  Only "established public or private organizations" can apply, and all applications must prove they have the technical capability necessary to keep a domain running.

ICANN, the Los Angeles-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has been planning the naming expansion for much of the last decade.  The group's Board of Directors approved the change at a board meeting in Singapore on Monday morning.

ICANN, long the steward of the Internet's naming system, will begin accepting applications soon -- and allow parties a three month window to apply for a new name.

Internet observers expect that the initial expansion might bring 500 new options for site suffixes, which are called generic top-level domain names (or gTLDs).  There are only 22 now, including the original eight, (.com, .edu, .gov, .int., .mil, .net, .org and .arpa).

Starting in 2000, ICANN has added 14 new top-level domains, including .biz, .info and .jobs. Few of the  new names have caught on, with .com remaining the standard across many industries, even though it can be difficult and expensive to find new .com names, with the most desirable long ago snapped up by companies, individuals and cybersquatters.

ICANN hopes that by, in essence, creating huge new online land grants, that it will undo that naming gridlock, as well as make the Internet's naming system safer and more intuitive.  Users might know, for instance, that any website ending with .movie is a legitimate new film from a recognized studio or filmmaker, and won't lead to an Internet backwater that might be looking to snooker visitors.

“ICANN has opened the Internet’s naming system to unleash the global human imagination. Today’s decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind,” said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's president and chief executive officer.


U.S. getting out of Internet management business - sort of

Google's Eric Schmidt: Blocking file-sharing sites would make U.S., Britain like China

Alleged LulzSec chat posted online, features Rebecca Black 'Friday' parody

-- David Sarno

Apple sued over its use of iCloud name by iCloud Communications


Apple has been sued by Phoenix-based iCloud Communications for its use of the name iCloud for its new cloud-based file storage services.

The lawsuit, filed last week in an Arizona U.S. District Court, argues that Apple's use of iCloud is trademark infringement on the name of iCloud, a VoIP (Internet phone service) and cloud services company founded in 2005.

Apple has so far used the iCloud name to identify its services for consumers looking to store music, photos, video, emails and other types of data in remote servers that they access over the Web -- or from the cloud, as the tech industry calls it.

The company also says in its suit that Apple knew that iCloud Communications held the trademark on the iCloud name, but used it anyway and in doing so, has hurt its use of the name.

ICloudCommunicationsLogo"Due to the worldwide media coverage given to and generated by Apple's announcement of its 'iCloud' services and the ensuing saturation advertising campaign pursued by Apple, the media and the general public have quickly come to associate the mark 'iCloud' with Apple, rather than iCloud Communications," the Internet calling firm said in its complaint. "At the time Apple elected to adopt 'iCloud' for its cloud computing telecommunications and data services, Apple was aware of or was willfully blind to iCloud Communications' use of and rights in the iCloud Marks."

Apple officials were unavailable for comment on the suit on Tuesday. But, as iCloud argues in its suit, troubles over trademark infringement for Apple are nothing new when it comes to product names.

"Although Apple aggressively protects its trademark rights, Apple has a long and well known history of knowingly and willfully treading on the trademark rights of others -- a history which began as early as the 1970s when Apple was first sued for trademark infringement by the Beatles record label, Apple Corp.," iCloud says in its suit.

The complaint also points out that Apple's use of the names Macintosh computer, Mighty Mouse, iPhone and iAd were each met with trademark infringement suits from other companies who've used those respective names for products of their own.

Apple's use of the iCloud name has already led to a lot of confusion for iCloud Communications, which is hurting its business, the company said in its suit.

"In fact, iCloud Communications has received numerous inquiries from both existing and prospective customers regarding whether it is now owned or affiliated with Apple," iCloud said in the court document. "The loss of and damage to the goodwill in the iCloud Marks, the damage to iCloud Communication's reputation and confusion among consumers is likely to continue -- and, in fact, intensify -- unless Apple is enjoined from its use of the mark 'iCloud.'"

The suit calls for Apple to "deliver for destruction all labels, signs, prints, insignia, letterhead, brochures, business cards, invoices and any other written or recorded material or advertisements in its possession or control containing the iCloud name," as well as unspecified payment for damages and any profits Apple makes from its iCloud offerings.


Apple WWDC: iCloud is free, iTunes Match is $25 a year

Apple WWDC: Mac OS X Lion will cost $29.99 in July

Apple WWDC: Steve Jobs announces iCloud

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: At top, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveils the iCloud storage system at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 6. Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Image: At bottom, the iCloud Communications logo. Credit: iCloud Communications LLC

Apple WWDC: iCloud is free, iTunes Match is $25 a year


As expected, Steve Jobs said Monday that Apple's iCloud service will offer a feature called iTunes in the Cloud that replicates users' music collections (instead of copying the files from their hard drives into the cloud) for free.

And, as reported by The Times before Jobs' announcement, a $25 annual subscription option will be made available. The Apple chief executive called it iTunes Match.

For $25 a year, an iTunes Match user will be able to add music not purchased from iTunes to his or her iCloud music collection. The number of songs an iTunes Match subscriber can store is unlimited, Jobs said at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on Monday.

"Here's how it works," Apple said on its website. "iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to your iCloud library for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 18 million songs in the iTunes Store, most of your music is probably already in iCloud. All you have to upload is what iTunes can't match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch."

Songs with a match in the iTunes catalog are all replicated in a user's iCloud library at 256-kbps quality, which audiophiles should appreciate, even if the user had lower-quality files. 

Matching a user's iTunes library in the cloud take minutes, not days or weeks, Apple says. By contrast, Google's Music Beta and Amazon's Cloud Player services require users to upload song files to "cloud lockers" themselves and offer no matching options.

In order to pull all this off, Apple reached large contracts with major record labels, agreeing to give them a share of the revenue from iTunes Match subscriptions.

If iTunes Match users let their subscriptions run out and don't pay to re-up, their iCloud libraries would revert to just the songs they've bought from iTunes.

Apple released a free beta version of iTunes in the Cloud on Monday for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users running iOS 4.3. ITunes Match will arrive this fall.

The cloud efforts will be taxing on Apple's servers, but the company says it is prepared for the increased traffic.

"Apple is ready to ramp iCloud in its three data centers, including the third recently completed in Maiden, N.C.," the company said in a statement. "Apple has invested over $500 million in its Maiden data center to support the expected customer demand for the free iCloud services."


Apple WWDC: Mac OS X Lion will cost $29.99 in July, 250-plus new features

Apple WWDC: Steve Jobs announced iCloud in San Francisco [Live blog]

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: Steve Jobs unveils the iCloud service at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg

Apple WWDC: Steve Jobs announced iCloud in San Francisco [Live blog]


Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive, is expected to take the stage at 10 a.m. today to keynote the annual Worldwide Developers Conference at Moscone Center West.

Jobs, who has made few public appearance since taking another medical leave in January, will help show off a mysterious new Internet service, iCloud, that many predict will let users to store all their music online, allowing them to access and listen to it from a number of devices.

The new iteration of iOS5, Apple's mobile operating system, and Mac OS X Lion, the equivalent for Mac computers, are also expected to be introduced. 

We'll be updating through the day, so check back soon and often!


10:40 a.m.: Multi-touch gestures, Mission Control and AirDrop

Steve Jobs showed up to a standing ovation, then passed the stage to Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief.

Schiller said that Lion, the new Mac operating system, has hundreds of new features, including full-screen apps and multi-touch gestures. That means getting rid of scroll bars on the side of windows.

A swiping gesture can flip from one Web page to the next. A double-tap zooms into a specific section. A new Mission Control service compiles all running apps and windows on the desktop into one view with a pinch gesture.

Applications in Lion will automatically save your work -– when you quit and reenter, they'll revert to the window placement and text highlighting from when you left. Users can also see older versions of individual documents and do comparisons with past edits -- dragging and dropping portions from older versions into newer ones.

And with AirDrop, you can drag files to others in your network through WiFi.

10:55 a.m.: iOS -- iPad, music, book sales

Moving on to Scott Forstall, the senior vice president of iOS software. So far, more than 200 million iOS devices have sold to date, making it the top mobile operating system, with 44% of the market, he says.

More than 25 million iPads have sold, along with 15 billion songs through the iTunes music store, making it the top music retailer in the world. More than 140 million books have been downloaded through the iBooks store.

More than 90,000 apps exist for the iPad on the App Store, Forstall said. In less than 3 years, the store has seen 14 billion apps downloaded total, with Apple paying out more than $2.5 billion to developers. There are more than 225 million customer accounts.

11 a.m.: iOS 5 with notification center, Newstand and Twitter

The iOS 5 is a “major release,” says Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS software.

Users can get to the centralized notification center with a single downward swipe to see missed calls, Facebook updates, stocks, weather. When playing a game, the notification will show up at the top so it doesn’t interrupt the player. Sliding the notification icon sends you to the app that sent the notification.

There’s also Newstand, which has subscriptions to magazines and newspapers and downloads new issues in the background.

Twitter is now easier to use on iOS products, with a simple sign-on. Twitter is intergrated with the camera and photos, so it’s easier to tweet photos. Users can also tweet videos from YouTube and articles from Safari.

11:20 a.m.: Safari improvements

Safari users can tap a button to read articles on a webstie in full-screen as a single scrolling story, even for poorly-formatted stories. A reading list added to all iOS devices bookmarks stories for later.

On the iPhone, there’s now tabbed browsing on Safari that can be tapped to quickly switch windows.
Stories can be tweeted by tapping the Twitter button or emailed from within Safari – previously only possible by sending the link or pasting into an email.

The new Reminders feature can store multiple lists (like groceries) and dates with location – someone who wants to remember to call his wife when he leaves WWDC can set up a geo-fence that will remind me when he goes outside. The app can be synced with Outlook.

Now the camera function is faster and users can get to it via a shortcut past the lockscreen, even skipping the passcode, by tapping the camera icon on the unlock slider and then using the volume up button to snap a shot.

There are now optional gridlines. Users can pinch to zoom. They can lock autofocus. And the iPhone and iPad now have photo editing capabilities – to crop, rotate, remove red-eye and adjust color tones.

11:30 a.m.: Mail

One of the most-used apps on iOS is mail. Apple has added rich-text formatting, message flagging, bolding, indenting and underlining, and the ability to search the contents of messages instead of just the sender and subject line. Users can swipe to the inbox. Addresses can be dragged between the To, Cc and Bcc slots. A new variant-keyboard iPad allows keyboard splitting and also lets keys be dragged closer to thumbs.

“We’re living in a post-PC world,” Forstall said, noting that the new iOS doesn’t need to hook up to a PC for an initial startup or for updates. Most households don’t have computers, he said, so PC functions have been added to iOS -- for example, creating and deleting calendars and mailboxes. There’s a built-in dictionary that shows definitions right in the email message.

Users can start a message on one device and push it to another and continue the conversation.
“Now if you want to cut the cord, you can,” he said.

11:40 a.m.: Game Center and iMessage

Apple’s Game Center was launched nine months ago and now has 50 million users. Microsoft’s Xbox Live has been around for eight years and has 30 million users, Forstall said.

Apple users can now add photos, see friends of friends and get game recommendations. They can buy and download games directly from Game Center and get support for turn-based games like Scrabble.

The new iMessage is supported on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and can send texts, photos and videos as well as contacts and group messages. There’s delivery confirmation and an indicator for whether someone is typing to you -- kind of like in Gchat.

11:50 a.m.: iCloud and Jobs

Jobs is back on stage, talking about iCloud.

PCs worked smoothly for a decade, he said. But with a slew of devices with photos, music and movies -- it’s been “driving us crazy trying to keep in sync.”

Here’s the solution: “Moving the digital hub into the cloud,” he said. And it’s not “just a hard disk in the sky.”

Why trust Apple, Jobs asked -- after all, “MobileMe was not our finest hour.”

This new system has been “rewritten from the ground up,” he said. Users can add a new contact -- or a new calendar or mail item -- to their mobile device and have it automatically copied on the cloud and advanced to the user’s other devices.

And there are no ads, Jobs said, in a dig at Gmail.

In the App Store, users can see the purchase history on all their devices and can add more devices at no extra charge. All apps purchased will show up on all devices. With books, users can start reading on one device, put in a bookmark and pick up reading on another device.

The cloud also wirelessly backs up the devices once a day.

11:58 a.m.: Photo Stream

The idea is to get rid of the file system, Jobs said.

The cloud system also works via the new Photo Stream service for photos. Photos taken with an iPhone, for example, will automatically be uploaded into the cloud and downloaded to other devices and stored. Same drill with imported photos.

On iOS, the last 1,000 photos are stored. For PCs and Macs, photos will be wiped off Apple’s cloud servers after 30 days. Users should move photos to an album if they want to keep them permanently.
The new capabilities are built into the apps, so there isn’t anything new that consumers have to learn, Jobs said. Photo Stream has also been incorporated into Apple TV.

“It just works,” he said, apparently the motto of the session.

12:05 p.m.: Drumroll please -- iTunes in the cloud

Jobs says that iTunes will also exist in the cloud. Music already purchased through iTunes will show up on up to 10 devices, at no cost to the user.

This is the first time something like this has been available in the music industry, he said.

Cloud-based iTunes is available today in beta form on iOS 4.3, but the full version will come this fall with iOS 5.

Users get 5 gigabytes of free storage for Mail, Documents and backup, not counting purchased apps, music, Photo Stream or books.

Oh, and “one more thing,” Jobs said: Users need to sync their devices once over Wi-Fi or using a cable, and after that, iCloud will spread new iTunes purchases over the gadgets.

With music not purchased from iTunes, Apple has software that will match it to the 18 million songs in iTunes and upgrade it to create a higher-quality copy in the cloud -- a process that takes minutes and costs $24.99 a year. The offer is better and faster than Google's and Amazon’s cloud music services, Jobs said.

12:15: And with that, Jobs is done! Thanks all.


Apple WWDC: Mac OS X Lion will cost $29.99 in July, 250-plus new features

Apple's iCloud could be free to start, later cost $25 annually

Apple's new Final Cut Pro X to hit the Mac App Store

-- Jessica Guynn in San Francisco and Tiffany Hsu in Los Angeles

Top photo: Apple CEO Steve Jobs takes the stage at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Credit: Beck Diefenbach / Reuters

Bottom photo: The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

Apple's iCloud could be free to start, later cost $25 annually


Apple's upcoming iCloud service is looking to push users into the cloud -- or at least their iTunes music collection anyway -- and it will be doing it for free.

Well, at no charge to consumers to start.

But, later on, Apple is planning to charge iCloud users a fee of about $25 a year to upload their music collection to the tech giant's servers so they can stream the music through a Web browser, or to whatever iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad or Mac they like, reports The Times' Alex Pham over on our sister blog Company Town.

And while sources familiar with the negotiations between Apple and major record labels surrounding the iCloud service have said music listeners won't have to fork over cash for cloud at first, funds will be changing hands between the companies involved to pull all this off.

Apple completed its negotiations with the four largest record labels on Thursday for iCloud, and is set to have contracts in place with music publishers by Friday, Pham reported.

From Company Town:

The agreements, finalized this week, call for Apple to share 70% of any revenue from iCloud's music service with record labels, as well as 12% with music publishers holding the songwriting rights. Apple is expected to keep the remaining 18%, said people knowledgeable with the terms.

Music companies that have signed on to iCloud include Warner Music Group, EMI Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. Representatives from the four companies could not be immediately reached for comment.

Though the service is initially focused on allowing consumers to store their music on Apple's servers, the Cupertino, Calif., technology company ultimately envisions the service to be used for movies, TV shows and other digital content sold through iTunes, said a person knowledgeable of the company's plans.

If Apple has, or gets movie and TV studios on board, that might pit iCloud as a challenger to services such as Netflix or Hulu, and put in competition with cloud-based music streaming services from Amazon and Google, which beat Apple to the market, but haven't done so with the cooperation of major record labels.

Apple's Chief Executive Steve Jobs will be unveiling the details of iCloud, iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion, on Monday at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.


Steve Jobs to unveil Apple's iCloud on Monday

Google unveils Music Beta, online music service

Amazon Cloud Player beats Apple and Google to the market

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: Apple CEO Steve Jobs gives a wave at the conclusion of the launch of the iPad 2 on stage during an Apple event in San Francisco on March 2. Credit: Beck Diefenbach / Reuters

Steve Jobs to unveil iCloud service at Apple conference Monday

STEVE JOBS Steve Jobs will take a break from medical leave to help introduce Apple’s new iCloud service at a major industry conference next week.

The Apple chief executive and pancreatic cancer survivor has emerged just once since going on leave in January, to unveil the iPad 2 in March.

But on Monday at the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Jobs will deliver the keynote address. There he will show off the iCloud system, which Apple is currently coyly referring to as just an “upcoming cloud services offering.”

Blogosphere pundits are guessing that iCloud will allow users to keep their music on a remote server, making it accessible from a variety of devices. Apple has kept busy recently setting up licensing agreements with the likes of EMI Music, Sony Music and Warner Music.

At the conference, Jobs is also expected to raise the curtain on the newest versions of desktop Mac software Lion and mobile operating system iOS 5, used in the iPhone, iPod and iPad.


Apple making its move into cloud music

Steve Jobs 'just didn't want to miss the day' for iPad 2 unveiling, despite medical leave

-- Tiffany Hsu [follow me]

Photo: Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs at iPad 2 unveiling in March. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

'This time we're ready.' Amazon offers Lady Gaga album for 99 cents, again.

Getprev Lady Gaga lovers will get another crack at snagging her new album for 99 cents.

After unexpected demand stalled the company's server during a surprise one-day promotion Monday, is back at it by offering "Born This Way" for the same discounted price Thursday.

Amazon broke the news in an early morning Twitter post with a link to the album's sale page.

"Clearly customers are really excited for Lady Gaga's new album -- we saw extraordinary response to Monday's promotion -- far above what we expected. She definitely melted some servers," Craig Pape, Amazon's director of music, said in a statement. "So we're doing it again, and this time we're ready."

Amazon will also throw in 20 gigabytes of free storage to its recently launched Cloud Drive, a service that allows customers to store music on company servers and stream it over the Internet. This month, Google introduced Music Beta, its own cloud music service. The music industry has widely regarded the Lady Gaga deal as a tactic to promote the Amazon's new cloud service and compete with Apple's iTunes store.


Google unveils Music Beta, online music service, for testing

Apple courts major record labels, could launch cloud music service soon

LimeWire to pay $105 million to music industry in piracy settlement

-- Shan Li

Photo: Lady Gaga appears in an episode of BET"s 106 and Park to promote her new album on May 23. Credit: Charles Sykes / Associated Press




Toyota and team to build Toyota Friend social network


Toyota has teamed with to build Toyota Friend, a social network connecting cars, dealers and the automaker.

Toyota Friend is set to launch in Japan in 2012, first with Toyota electric cars and later with plug-in hybrids, before rolling out to other countries, Toyota said in a statement.

The social network will not be a public one, but rather built on Salesforce's Chatter service, which provides private social networks for offices and corporations.

But Toyota Friend users will be able to integrate their activity on the network with Facebook and Twitter if they want to, the automaker said.

Toyota Friend will update drivers with "product and service information as well as essential maintenance tips," Toyota said. If an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid "is running low on battery power, Toyota Friend would notify the driver to recharge in the form of a 'tweet'-like alert."

Toyota drivers also will be able to access Toyota Friend through smartphones, tablets and other advanced mobile devices.

Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said in a statement: "Social networking services are transforming human interaction and modes of communication. The automobile needs to evolve in step with that transformation."

In a Monday demo at one of Toyota's Tokyo showrooms, a plug-in Prius hybrid sent a message to an owner’s cellphone, reminding him that he should charge his car overnight, according to a report from the Associated Press.

In the message, the car identified itself as “Pre-boy,” a nickname given to the car by the owner, the report said.

After the owner plugged his car into a charging station, the car sent a message over the prototype Toyota Friend network saying, "The charge will be completed by 2:15 a.m. Is that OK? See you tomorrow," the AP report said.

Officials from Salesforce and Toyota weren't available Monday to comment on just how much information the social network will send back to Toyota and its dealers, the financial terms surrounding the deal or whether Toyota Friend would integrate with the planned cloud-based telematics system the automaker is building with Microsoft that would also launch in 2012.


Microsoft and Toyota building new cloud-based telematics system

Google's Driverless Car project is personal for engineer Sebastian Thrun

Toyota and Shell open pipeline-fed hydrogen station in Torrance for fuel-cell cars

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, alongside a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid car, addresses a joint news conference with in Tokyo on May 23, 2011. Credit: Yuriko Nakao / Reuters


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