Technology

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

Category: Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Apple vs. Samsung: Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales ban upheld in Germany

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung was dealt a loss in its ongoing patent battle with Apple as the South Korean electronics maker's request to overturn a ban on the sale of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in Germany was denied.

A Dusseldorf regional appeals court upheld the August 2011 sales injunction of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and said that Samsung's Galaxy Tab 8.9 also should be banned from being sold, according to a report on the website FOSS Patents by patent expert Florian Mueller.

Although the decision hurts Samsung, the ruling may also be a setback for Apple. The reasoning behind the court's decision wasn't because of Apple's claims that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 infringes on the design patents for the iPad tablet. Rather, "the appeals court based its decision on a violation of German unfair competition law," Mueller reported.

The injunction against Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales in Germany cited Apple's design patents as the reasoning for pulling the Samsung tablet off store shelves.

In an effort to not miss out on the growing tablet market in Germany, Samsung redesigned the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and then re-released a new German version called the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, which is allowed to be sold, though Apple has requested a sales ban on that product too.

The Dusseldorf appeals court ruling is the latest in an international fight between Samsung, Apple and their respective teams of lawyers. Last week, Apple was denied a requested sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the Netherlands, where the two companies are locked in a patent battle.

Earlier this month, Apple filed two new patent suits against Samsung in Germany, seeking a ban on 10 Samsung phones and five tablets. Last month, a U.S. district court in San Jose denied Apple's request for a ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 before a July trial on Apple's lawsuit against Samsung in that court.

In December, a temporary ban on the Samsung tablet in Australia expired in a related suit between the two tech giants. The Australian dispute is set to go to trial in March, and other suits have been filed across Europe and Asia.

While the two companies are rivals and suing to block the sales of one another's products, Samsung and Apple are also business partners. Samsung, for example, manufactures the Apple-designed A4 and A5 processors found in the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iPod Touch, among other components, such as flash memory, inside of many Apple devices.

RELATED:

Apple loses bid to ban Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Netherlands

Apple vs. Samsung: Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales ban lifted in Australia

Apple sues Samsung again in Germany, calls for ban on 10 phones

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet on display this month at a company showroom in Seoul. Credit: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Obama and Romney campaigns use Square for fundraising

Square

Barack Obama's use of social media is credited with helping him reach out to voters in a groundbreaking way that helped him win the 2008 presidential race. In 2012, the Obama campaign is eying a new way to reach voters and donors too -- Square.

The president's reelection campaign, as first reported by Politico, is outfitting its staff across the U.S. with the small plastic smartphone credit card readers and mobile payment apps from Square, the San Francisco start-up run by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

But just as the Obama campaign isn't alone in its embracing of social media this year, it too isn't alone in deploying Square for easier, faster fundraising on the campaign trail. On Tuesday, Republican Mitt Romney's campaign announced it too would be using Square for fundraising in Florida, where Romney is facing rivals Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum in a Republican primary.

"We have plans to roll it out nationally but right now we're using Square just in Florida as a sort of beta test," said Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign's digital director. "The challenge on this sort of thing is never with the technology, it's with the compliance. We're making sure everything we're doing follows fundraising rules and is compliant with the FEC [Federal Election Commission] and that it works well. So, for now, were just focusing on making it all work on this smaller scale, but we'd like to scale this out in time, the right way."

Moffatt said the Romney campaign has been talking to Square about how to best implement the company's card reader and app for "probably about six months. This is one of the challenges we face relative to the Obama campaign -- we have only so much manpower. So we've had to plan this out the right way so that we're using the resources we have in an effective way."

To aid its ability to scale-up its use of Square, the Romney campaign is considering developing its own Square-compatibly app that a supporter could download to their smartphone to make a donation or possibly even collect donations on behalf of the campaign -- but that's an idea that hasn't been finalized just yet, Moffatt said.

The campaign looked to Square for fundraising because of the company's ability to turn a smartphone into what is essentially a mobile cash register with a simple app download and a Square card reader in the headphone jack.

"Ease of use is a big part of why we're using Square," he said. "Anything that reduces the barrier for entry is a No. 1 priority for us. Our apps, well that's something to think through. We still have some things to figure out -- whether or not the Apple is going to take 30% of a donation or not, details like that. But we're always looking to get as close to one touch donations as we can."

For the sake of convenience, Moffatt said, all of the Romney's campaign's Square usage will be iPhone based for now, though Android phones may be added in the future. The "beta test" will take place Tuesday night at the Romney campaign's election party in Florida, he said.

"There will be thousands of people there, so we'll be using Square for merchandise sales and fundraising," Moffatt said. "There will be lots of things like this in 2012 and the question always is, does this technology work for us? We have a lot faith this could be something pretty powerful for us moving forward."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A demo of Square's card reader and iPhone app in action. Credit: Square

Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet review [Video]

Motorola's Xyboard tablet line is just about everything I wished the Motorola Xoom had been when it was released not even a year ago.

The Xoom, Motorola's first attempt to build an iPad-competing tablet, was critically acclaimed when it launched last February. It even won the Best of Show award at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

But the Xoom, which sported a 10.1-inch screen, was a bit too heavy (1.6 pounds) and much too expensive (launching with an $800 price tag), and the 3G and 4G models were available only through Verizon. The 4G capabilities were also delayed about seven months, and when they did arrive, Xoom owners had to mail in their tablets to get a 4G hardware upgrade.

Thankfully, in the Xyboard, it seems Motorola has made up for most (but not all) of its missteps with the Xoom.

For one thing, the Xyboard prices are more acceptable.

The Wi-Fi-only version of the Xyboard starts at $399.99 for the 8.2-inch model and at $499.99 for the 10.1-inch model. The Verizon-exclusive 4G version, known as the Droid Xyboard, starts at $429.99 for the 8.2-inch model and at $529.99 for the 10.1-inch model -- that is, as long as you sign a two-year data plan along with the tablet. (All four of the prices named are for tablets with 16 gigabytes of storage.)

Both the 8.2-inch and 10.1-inch Xyboards have touch screens with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.

The Motorola Droid Xybaord 10.1, left, next to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Apple iPad 2.

The Xyboard 10.1 is thin and light, and physically felt much more competitive with Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1, the two high-end tablets against which I think the Xyboard 10.1 will be competing most for consumer dollars. The Asus Transformer Prime tablet, a tablet I haven't yet tried, is likely be in this category as well.

In my time testing the 4G-equipped Droid Xyboard 10.1, it was clear more than just the pricing strategy was different with Motorola's new tablets.

Inside, the Xyboard 10.1 is fitted with a 1.2-gigahertz dual core processor and 1 gigabyte of RAM, which powers the tablet to speedy performance that lived up to its price tag.

In the front and rear are 5-megapixel cameras, which shoot detailed photos and 720p video out back too. They aren't as sharp as some 5-megapixel cameras I've seen on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Apple iPhone 4 and Nokia Lumia 710, but they're far better than the lackluster cameras in the iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab.

The Xyboard 10.1 is just 0.35 inches thick and weighs 1.32 pounds, making the inclusion of such high-resolution cameras and a rear LEG flash all the more impressive. It also has dual stereo speakers in the back, which sound good for a tablet (better than speakers on the iPad and the Galaxy Tab 10.1) but don't replace a good set of headphones.

The displays on the Xyboard 10.1 were another high point, responding to touch input quickly and rendering websites, apps and videos sharply, clearly and brightly. Unlike the iPad or the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Xyboard has a mini-HDMI port built in, so it's easy to hook the tablet up to a TV set.

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Aneesh Chopra, the first White House chief of technology, resigns

Aneesh Chopra was the White House's first chief technology officer.

Aneesh Chopra, the first White House chief of technology, has resigned after almost three years on the job.

Chopra's resignation was announced in a post on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy's blog that did not explain why he's leaving the Obama administration. The Washington Post reported that he is rumored to be considering a run for lieutenant governor in Virgina.

"When President Obama came into office in January 2009, the administration found a federal government relying too heavily on 20th century technology," John P. Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in the blog post. "On his first day on the job, the president created the position of 'chief technology officer.'"

Chopra was sworn in as the first U.S. chief technology officer May 22, 2009. The job called for "looking at ways technology can spur innovations that help government do a better and more efficient job."

Holdren said Chopra had "a dizzying array of accomplishments" while in office, which included input on crafting the president's National Wireless Initiative, which calls for "the development of a nationwide public safety broadband network"; establishing "a set of Internet policy principles, including the call for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights"; and leading "the implementation of the president's open government strategy focused on unlocking the innovative potential of the federal government to solve problems and seed the jobs and industries of the future."

Obama, who is known as a more tech-friendly president than his predecessors, said in a statement that Chopra "did groundbreaking work to bring our government into the 21st century. Aneesh found countless ways to engage the American people using technology, from electronic health records for veterans, to expanding access to broadband for rural communities, to modernizing government records."

The White House under Obama has used technology -- social media in particular -- much more than previous administrations. This can be attributed to the rise in popularity of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but Chopra may have had an influence as well.

Before his White House job, Chopra was chief technology officer for the state of Virgina. On "The Daily Show," host Jon Stewart once jokingly called Chopra the "Indian George Clooney."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Aneesh Chopra smiles during a roundtable discussion at the 2010 International CTIA Wireless convention in Las Vegas. Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Facebook IPO filing reportedly due 'as early as next week'

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Facebook's initial public offering has been anticipated for months and is speculated to be worth as much as $10 billion whenever it arrives.

And right about now, that's the biggest question for the world's largest social network -- when will the IPO filing arrive?

According to a Friday report from the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, Facebook could file for its IPO "as early as next week."

When next week? The Journal says "Facebook could file papers for the IPO as early as this coming Wednesday, but that timing is still being discussed, said a person familiar with the matter."

Facebook, for its part, hasn't said when its inevitable IPO will arrive, but the rumor mill is in high gear.

On Wendesday, multiple reports said that the Menlo Park, Calif., company had temporarily suspended trading of company shares on private markets so it could tally up just how many shareholders it has -- a move sometimes made ahead of an IPO.

The IPO is expected to be the largest of the year and possibly the decade and, as noted by the Times' Jessica Guynn and Walter Hamilton, it could turn as many as 1,000 Facebook employees into millionaires. Facebook has more than 800 million users worldwide and it's expected to also reach 1 billion users soon as well.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Facebook's thumbs-up "Like" icon is displayed on a sign at the company's new campus in Menlo Park, Calif. Facebook hopes to accommodate over 6,000 employees on the new campus, which is spread out over a million square feet of office space. Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

#TwitterBlackout: Tweeters protest nation-specific blocks [Updated]

#TwitterCensored tweets on Twitter

Twitter faced a growing backlash on Friday, less than a day after it announced that it can now block specific tweets from being published in specific countries that legally require such censorship.

On Friday, a day after the country-specific plan was announced, #TwitterBlackout and #TwitterCensored were trending topics on the hugely popular social network.

In the case of #TwitterBlackout, thousands of users from around the world threatened to boycott using the service on Jan. 28, with the hactivist group Anonymous among those calling on tweeters to skip the site for a day. The group Reporters Without Borders issued a letter on its website to Twitter's executive chairman, Jack Dorsey, asking him to "reverse a policy that violates freedom of expression."

The trending topic #TwitterCensorship was filled mostly with tweets from users complaining that Twitter shouldn't be censoring any of its users. Fear over increased censorship also was widely expressed, as was some frustration as some believe Twitter's new policy may result in less censorship,  not more.

Munk_One

In the past, Twitter only withdrew a user's tweet globally -- meaning the entire world wouldn't be able to see a tweet if the site censored it. But now, the San Francisco company has built a tool that allows them to censor tweets just in the country that calls for the censorship, but others outside of that nation will be able to view the message share on the service.

Twitter said Thursday in a blog post that it doesn't want to censor anyone's tweets but legally has to do so in certain cases, such as France's and Germany's ban on "pro-Nazi content."

The company also said it has teamed with the free-speech and online-rights website ChillingEffects.org -- an online partnership between the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics -- to document who is asking for a tweet to be censored and why. Such notices will be published at chillingeffects.org/twitter.

Jillian C. York, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's director of international freedom of expression, argued in a blog post defending the company that the move doesn't "represent a sea change in Twitter's policies."

"It's been difficult to comment on the move given the extreme reaction by Twitter's own community," York said. "Lots of 'I told you so' from the conspiracy theorists who think that this is because of Saudi Prince Alwaleed's stake in the company, compounded by the #occupy crowd continuing to claim their hashtag was censored in Twitter's trending topics made me want to avoid the subject entirely."

But, of course, York doesn't avoid the subject.

"Let's be clear: This is censorship," she said. "There's no way around that. But alas, Twitter is not above the law. Just about every company hosting user-generated content has, at one point or another, gotten an order or government request to take down content. Google lays out its orders in its Transparency Report. Other companies are less forthright. In any case, Twitter has two options in the event of a request: Fail to comply, and risk being blocked by the government in question, or comply (read: censor).  And if they have 'boots on the ground', so to speak, in the country in question?  No choice."

Nonetheless, York said she understands why people are angry.

"Twitter has previously taken down content -- for DMCA requests, at least -- and will no doubt continue to face requests in the future," she said, referencing Twitter blocking tweets in the past to follow DMCA copyright laws. "I believe that the company is doing its best in a tough situation…and I'll be the first to raise hell if they screw up."

[Updated 3:03 p.m.: Twitter updated it's blog post on the censorship changes in response to the user backlash seen over the last day.

The company said that it believes "new, more granular approach to withheld content is a good thing for freedom of expression, transparency, accountability -- and for our users. Besides allowing us to keep Tweets available in more places, it also allows users to see whether we are living up to our freedom of expression ideal."

Twitter also answered threee questions it says it has been asked since Thursday. The questions and answers from Twitter:

Q: Do you filter out certain Tweets before they appear on Twitter?
A: No. Our users now send a billion Tweets every four days -- filtering is neither desirable nor realistic. With this new feature, we are going to be reactive only: that is, we will withhold specific content only when required to do so in response to what we believe to be a valid and applicable legal request.

As we do today, we will evaluate each request before taking any action. Any content we do withhold in response to such a request is clearly identified to users in that country as being withheld. And we are now able to make that content available to users in the rest of the world.

Q: What will people see if content is withheld?
A: If people are located in a country where a Tweet or account has been withheld and they try to view it, they will see a alert box that says "Tweet withheld" or "@Username withheld" in place of the affected Tweet or account.

Q: Why did you take this approach, and why now?
A: There's no magic to the timing of this feature. We've been working to reduce the scope of withholding, while increasing transparency, for a while. We have users all over the world and wanted to find a way to deal with requests in the least restrictive way.]

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Twitter can now censor tweets nationally, rather than globally

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Images: Screen shots of Twitter users complaining about Twitter's new nation-specific censorship policy. Credit: Twitter

Motorola sells 200,000 tablets, reports $80-million loss

Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 at CES 2012

Motorola Mobility sold 1 million tablets in 2011 -- with only 200,000 Xooms and Xyboards sold in the fourth quarter of the year, a quarter in which the company also reported an $80-million loss.

The consumer electronics maker reported the low tablet sales and negative earnings on Thursday in its quarterly earnings report. The loss came on revenue of $3.44 billion in the fourth quarter. A year earlier, the company reported a fourth-quarter profit of $80 million on $3.43 billion in revenue.

For the full year, Motorola reported a loss of $249 million on $13 billion in revenue, up from an $86-million loss on $11.5 billion in revenue in 2010.

Product shipments are also down year over year for the fourth quarter. Motorola shipped 10.5 million phones and tablets (all of which run Google's Android operating system) in the last three months of 2011, down from 11.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.

In 2011 as a whole, Motorola shipped 42.4 million mobile devices, up from 37.3 million devices shipped in 2010.

Motorola also said it remains "energized by the proposed merger with Google and continue to focus on creating innovative technologies." The Google takeover is still awaiting approval from regulators in a number of countries, but Motorola said it expects the $12.5-billion deal to "close in early 2012 once all conditions have been satisfied."

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Motorola Mobility sues Apple over patents, probably with Google's blessing

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Motorola's Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet on display at Motorola Mobility's booth at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Credit: David Becker/Getty Images

Twitter can now censor tweets nationally, rather than globally

What a withheld tweet will look like
What a withheld username will look likeThe wings of some Twitter users may be clipped a bit less going forward.

The San Francisco-based company said Thursday that it will now be able to censor tweets in specific countries that ask it to do so for legal reasons, rather than having to block tweets globally as before.

"As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression," the company said in a blog post. "Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content."

Up until this point, Twitter was only able to censor tweets worldwide, which means nobody would get to see a blocked tweet, the company said.

"Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country -- while keeping it available in the rest of the world," Twitter said. "We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why."

When a tweet is blocked in a country, a message will appear stating that the tweet has been withheld in that nation alongside a link that explains the reason as to why the tweet was blocked.

"We haven't yet used this ability, but if and when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld," Twitter said. "As part of that transparency, we've expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to share this new page, http://chillingeffects.org/twitter, which makes it easier to find notices related to Twitter."

Twitter says in its help center that the ability to block a tweet in a specific nation will allow it to "respect our user's expression, while also taking into consideration applicable local laws."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Images: Screen shots of what blocked content will look like. Credit: Twitter

Google+ now open to teens, with a few security tweaks too

Google+ Hangouts prompt for teens

Google+ opened up to teenagers on Thursday, a move that Google no doubt hopes will help it challenge Facebook as the social network of choice.

"Teens and young adults are the most active Internet users on the planet," said Bradley Horowitz, Google's vice president of products, in a post on his Google+ page. "And surprise, surprise: they're also human beings who enjoy spending time with friends and family. Put these two things together and it's clear that teens will increasingly connect online."

While minors will now be able to use Google+, the experience on the social network won't be exactly the same for them as the 18-and-older crowd. Google has made a few privacy and security changes with teens in mind that Horowitz said will make Google+ a more ideal network to use for sharing and connecting with friends than other services.

"Unfortunately, online sharing is still second-rate for this age group," he said of teenagers. "In life, for instance, teens can share the right things with just the right people (like classmates, parents or close ties). Over time, the nuance and richness of selective sharing even promotes authenticity and accountability. Sadly, today's most popular online tools are rigid and brittle by comparison, so teens end up over-sharing with all of their so-called "friends.' "

The ability to share on Google+ to specific "circles" of friends is a start Horowitz said, but the social network is also giving users "control over who can contact them online. By default, only those in teens' circles can say hello, and blocking someone is always just a click or two away."

Google+'s Hangout video chats will also be tweaked for teens. "If a stranger outside a teen's circles joins the hangout, we temporarily remove the young adult, and give them a chance to rejoin," he said.

Previously, Google+ was only open to users who were 18 years old and up. Now, Horowitz said, anyone who is old enough for a Google account of any sort is old enough for Google+. And in all but Spain (14), South Korea (14) and the Netherlands (16), that age is 13.

Facebook, which boasts more than 800 million users, is open to anyone 13 and older. Google+ has about 90 million users, the tech giant said earlier this month.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: An example of the prompt a teenage Google+ user under age 18 will receive whenever someone they don't have included in a contact "circle" on the social network joins in on a Hangout video chat session. Credit: Google

Nokia loses $1.38 billion in Q4, sells 1 million Windows Phones

Nokia Lumia 800

Nokia's multibillion-dollar bet on Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system is still in its early stages, but so far the bet is a financially losing one. Though, there are glimmers of hope.

The Finnish phone-maker reported a $1.38-billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2011 on Thursday, but the company also said that it has sold "well over 1 million Lumia devices to date."

While the Lumia sales so far don't come close to challenging heavyweights such as Apple's iPhone, which sold about 37 million units in the same three-month period, the consumer uptake is notable considering that the Lumias aren't sold in nearly as many markets as rival phones from Apple, Samsung and HTC.

The Lumia line is Nokia's first range of handsets running on the Windows Phone software, and since the series debut in October, Nokia has released just two phones -- the Lumia 710 and the Lumia 800 -- to Europe, Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

Only the Lumia 710 is currently available in the U.S. The newly announced Lumia 900, a phone designed specifically for the U.S. market, is expected to hit stores as early as March. Nokia has yet to launch its Lumia phones in China or Latin America, though the company said in a statement that would happen sometime in the first six months of the year.

Overall Nokia sales fell 21% in the last three months of the year, while smartphone shipments fell 31% from a year ago. Much of Nokia's smartphone dip is attributable to the decline in popularity of phones running the company's Symbian and MeeGo operating systems as consumers have turned to Google's Android platform and the iPhone. When Nokia agreed to take on Windows Phone, it stated that it would abandon Symbian and MeeGo as well.

The company's $1.38-billion fourth quarter loss follows a profit of about $980 million a year earlier.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone sits on display inside a Nokia retail store in Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Ville Mannikko / Bloomberg

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