Yahoo aims for Facebook lift
Yahoo Inc. will lean more heavily on Facebook’s popularity as it tries to give people more reasons to stay on its Web site.
The expanded partnership announced Wednesday will enable Yahoo users with Facebook accounts to blend material from the two Web sites without having to leave one destination for the other.
For example, Yahoo users will be able to read the latest updates from their Facebook friends while they’re still perusing Yahoo’s site. On the flip side, personal material from Yahoo’s site — such as e-mail, movie reviews, and photos — can be more easily shared on Facebook.
These tools are scheduled to be activated early next year.
Yahoo’s home page already includes an application that provides a glimpse at Facebook updates. The upcoming changes will make it possible to plant Facebook content all over Yahoo.
This marks Yahoo’s most aggressive step yet in a yearlong effort to host more outside applications on its site as part of its strategy to woo back Web surfers who are spending more time socializing and playing games elsewhere.
Price cuts drive flat panel TV sales
Decisive price cuts are helping to lift sales of LCD flat-panel TVs after Thanksgiving, research firm iSuppli Corp. said in a new report.
ISuppli said promotional prices are 22 percent lower than before Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. ISuppli estimates 6 percent more TV sets will be sold during a seven-day period that began on Black Friday compared with the same period last year.
The average advertised Black Friday price for a 32-inch set was $369, down from $490 before Thanksgiving.
Prices for larger sets were down more modestly, about 7 percent. Manufacturers instead packed better features into the models that went on sale, such as faster refresh rates for a steadier picture, iSuppli said.
Big brands like Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc. and Sony Corp. offered the biggest discounts because they have had the highest regular prices, according to iSuppli analyst Tina Tseng.
Walkie-talkie dumped by Sprint
Sprint Nextel Corp. is giving up on a technology that allows some Sprint-branded phones to use a “push-to-talk” walkie-talkie service similar to what’s available on the company’s Nextel-branded phones.
Scott Sloat, a spokesman for the nation’s third-largest wireless provider, said Sprint will still support customers who have phones with the technology, known as QChat, but will no longer introduce new phones with the feature.
Sprint introduced QChat last year as a potential replacement for the push-to-talk service on its Nextel-branded iDEN network, which is a mainstay among dispatchers, contractors and other business users. Some analysts were pushing Sprint to jettison iDEN, which Sprint acquired with Nextel in 2005 but has been losing thousands of subscribers every quarter.
Microsoft upgrades mapping service
Microsoft Corp. is releasing an updated version of its mapping service with street-level views and new “apps” that tack on tweets, traffic and other location-specific data.
The new version of Bing Maps, released Wednesday in a “beta” test mode, offers slicker technology so users can zoom in more smoothly from the high-up graphical map to the close-up views showing actual streets from a pedestrian or driver’s viewpoint.
With this version of Bing Maps, Microsoft matches Google Inc. in sending cars with cameras down streets to capture images of every block. Microsoft is offering that in 56 U.S. cities for now, while Google has hit all 50 states and expanded the feature overseas.
Microsoft also used lasers to scan the buildings and constructed a three-dimensional map of those cities.
That makes it possible to add on collections of images built with Microsoft’s Photosynth tool, which stitches and layers together multiple photos of the same location to build a virtual model.
For the user, that means not only being able to stand in front of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, but also being able to “walk” inside to see photos of the art tourists have uploaded.
Clicking a small button at the bottom of the screen pulls up a library of Map apps. Each of the 15 or so apps currently available overlays some type of data on top of the map. One scatters pinpoints for local shops, restaurants and other businesses; another gives a view of recent Twitter messages. There’s another that calls up images of roadside sculptures created by an outside site, VirtualGlobeTrotting.com.
Microsoft said eventually more apps from outside developers will be available.
Bing Maps uses Silverlight, Microsoft’s answer to Adobe Inc.’s Flash, so a small plug-in available for most Mac and PC browsers is required.