Selasa, 19 Agustus 2008

Internet Marketing

Everything starts with a brand and a marketing strategy. If you already have a brand and strategy, we'll build on them to create a Web site that reflects your vision.

If you are just starting out, Virtual Consulting can help you with branding strategy, finding your target audience on the web and positioning your service or product in the online marketplace.

We will work with you to define the following :

  • Your Objective
    What is the objective of your Web site? Is it strictly sales or are you launching a new image? Are you trying to retain your current customer base or do you see a new market opportunity?
  • Your Target Audience
    Who is your target audience? Attracting your audience through the Internet is substantially different to appealing to the same group offline.
  • Your Online Competition

    Who are your competitors? Will you compete with large, established companies or small niche companies?
  • Your Unique Advantages
    What differentiates you from your business competitors?

Virtual Consulting will also provide suggestions for promoting your site through integration with offline marketing efforts We understand that clients sometimes need assistance in understanding the methods of online advertising and marketing available to them and which routes are likely to best achieve their objectives.

Virtual Consulting provides strategic online marketing advice services; pulling together your goals into a single online strategy. The strategy will encompass requirements, implementation, reporting and success measures.

The strategy will consider all methods of online advertising and marketing, from search engine marketing to email campaigns and affiliate programs.

Once the strategy has been approved, we will assist you in implementing that strategy and measuring its success.


Biden the clear frontrunner for Veep

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - I've recently spoken with two of the finalists for the role of Barack Obama's running-mate, and to two other sources who are close to the process.

My bottom line is this: Barring a big surprise or last-minute change of heart, the choice is likely to be Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

He is a lively and feisty if unpredictable campaigner with working-class roots and a street-level feel for the hot spots of the globe — which he can use to go toe-to-toe with Sen. John McCain.

"If I had to bet my life on it, I'd bet it is Joe," said one of the other contenders.

Said another, "Barack is moving toward a seasoned Beltway type, and that probably means Biden."


About MediaNews Group

Mission Statement

Our corporate mission is to be the leading provider of local news, information and services in our strategically located markets by continually expanding and leveraging our news gathering resources. We will proactively identify and develop strategic partnerships and relationships to enhance our content and services while integrating our content for dissemination across all available distribution platforms in our markets, starting with the local newspaper. We will continually strive to improve our profitability, while being a strong community partner and strengthening our work environment for our employees.

Company Brief

MediaNews Group is one of the largest newspaper companies in the United States situated throughout California, the Rocky Mountain region and the Northeast. We are privately owned and operate 54 daily newspapers in 11 states with combined daily and Sunday circulation of approximately 2.4 million and 2.7 million, respectively. Each of our newspapers maintains a Web site focused on local news content. These Web sites are hosted by MediaNews Group Interactive, our new media division. We also own a television station, a CBS affiliate in Anchorage, AK and operate radio stations in Texas.


DirectX 11 to be Unveiled

Microsoft are to demonstrate DirectX 11 at this years XNA Gamefest, held on 22/23 July in Seattle. This should be available towards the end of 2009, just before the next major release of Windows:

"This year’s Gamefest will be built around DirectX 11, to relight the fire of the multimedia and gaming API. The software is scheduled to be made available for Windows Vista and Windows 7, but Microsoft wants to avoid the same mistakes it made with DirectX 10.

According to our sources in the game development world, DirectX 10 failed to capture hearts and minds of developers, since Windows Vista and the development environment were just too unstable to use them as a development foundation, we were told. Vista came with a "passing the cost to the consumer" approach in term of hardware performance as the operating system was burdened with DRM in too many stages."


Trace arsenic in water may be tied to diabetes

CHICAGO - A new analysis of government data is the first to link low-level arsenic exposure, possibly from drinking water, with Type 2 diabetes, researchers say.

The study's limitations make more research necessary. And public water systems were on their way to meeting tougher U.S. arsenic standards as the data were collected.

Still, the analysis of 788 adults' medical tests found a nearly fourfold increase in the risk of diabetes in people with low arsenic concentrations in their urine compared to people with even lower levels.Previous research outside the United States has linked high levels of arsenic in drinking water with diabetes. It's the link at low levels that's new. The findings appear in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The good news is, this is preventable," said lead author Dr. Ana Navas-Acien of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

New safe drinking water standards may be needed if the findings are duplicated in future studies, Navas-Acien said. She said they've begun a new study of 4,000 people.

Arsenic can get into drinking water naturally when minerals dissolve. It is also an industrial pollutant from coal burning and copper smelting. Utilities use filtration systems to get it out of drinking water.

Seafood also contains nontoxic organic arsenic. The researchers adjusted their analysis for signs of seafood intake and found that people with Type 2 diabetes had 26 percent higher inorganic arsenic levels than people without Type 2 diabetes.

How arsenic could contribute to diabetes is unknown, but prior studies have found impaired insulin secretion in pancreas cells treated with an arsenic compound.

The policy implications of the new findings are unclear, said Molly Kile, an environmental health research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health. Kile wrote an accompanying editorial in the journal.

"Urinary arsenic reflects exposures from all routes — air, water and food — which makes it difficult to track the actual source of arsenic exposure let alone use the results from this study to establish drinking water standards," Kile said.

Also, the findings raise a chicken-and-egg problem, she said, since it's unknown whether diabetes changes the way people metabolize arsenic. It's possible that people with diabetes excrete more arsenic.

The United States lowered arsenic standards for public water systems to 10 parts per billion in 2001 because of known cancer risks. Compliance was required by 2006, years after the study data were collected in 2003 and 2004.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed


Unique Gear for the New School Year

Another school year will be here before you know it. Sure, teachers want your kid coming to class with a stash of sharpened Number 2 pencils and a few one subject notebooks. But what other gear should you consider to round out his backpack? Never fear: we've done the shopping so you don't have to! From markers that change color with the click of a button, to USB Flash drives that channel Star Wars characters, here's the best back-to-school booty...whether your kid's heading off to kindergarten, or heading off to college.

11 Essentials for the K-12 Set

A Quirky Lunchbox : Laptop Lunch System
Still spooked by the "Lunchbox Lead Scare" from a few years back? A brown paper bag may work just fine, but if you're looking for something a little bit more spiffy for your kid to cart to school, we suggest the Laptop Lunch system. Like a bento box for the elementary kid set, this kit comes with an insulated carrying case, a reusable water bottle, a set of metal utensils, and a bright rectangular box with five smaller boxes nestled inside of it. The thing is cute-- plus, for kids who don't like their applesauce mixing with their PB&J, it's practical-- picky eaters don't usually want their food touching, and the kit keeps each lunch component in its place. While the bento containers are plastic, every part is BPA, phalate, and lead-free, and you can squeeze in a small metal SIGG or Klean Kanteen thermos if you'd rather. Having so many little boxes to open adds an element of Christmas to lunchtime. Plus, there's a paperback book packed full of lunch inspiration for mom or dad, perfect for those nights when the meal muse refuses to make an appearance... (Laptop Lunch System, $34.99;

A Friendly Frog: Keroppi Pencil Case
Can you still remember the thrill of a backpack full of new school supplies? We can. True, we're in a recession, and springing for a huge stash of paraphernalia may not be in the cards, but a cute pencil case is a relatively cheap indulgence. House writing instruments in style, with the Keroppi pencil case, delivered straight from Japan. Along with sushi and comics, The Land of the Rising Sun is known for its stationary supplies. This canvas offering has one of the country's most beloved animated characters, a contemporary of Hello Kitty, but one less known in America. If this winking frog doesn't bring a smile to your kid's day, we don't know what will...(Keroppi pencil case, $7.50;

A Magical Marker:
Pip-Squeak Mix 'Ems
Got a kid who consistently resists the call of the crayon? Tempt him with this cool new offering that leaves wax in the dust. These washable markers mix the wonder of science, with the creativity of color. Each time kids snap a marker cap to a different base, they get a new shade: the marker and base tips exchange ink in the see-through mixing chamber, at the touch of a button. Deeper shades lighten up. Yellows and pinks explore the dark side. Then, as the marker sweeps across the page, it eventually drifts back to its original state-- moving from red, to orange, to yellow, for example. Not only will these mix-ems hone your child's creativity, but they'll work his fine motor skills, which kids need in order to become adept at writing. Even better, they'll get him muttering, "I wonder what would happen if I..." (Crayola Pip-Squeaks Mix 'Ems, 6-count package $3.99, 16-count package $9.99;

A Green Notebook: New Leaf Notebooks
The paper industry is responsible for over 40% of all landfill waste in America. And even all that recycling your family may be doing doesn't make up for the fact that most paper never makes it to a second life. With these notebooks now on the market, there's no excuse not to go green. Made of 100% post-consumer paper, they've got the brightness of virgin fiber, without the guilt, because no trees are cut down to make them. Chlorine-free, with hip designs like backlit leaves, swirling branches, or retro-looking tangerine jungle birds, each one comes with an inscription on the inside cover, "Just think, in a previous life, this was probably somebody else's notebook." True enough, but once your kid gets a look at these designs, we'll wager she'll be hankering to call one her own. (New Leaf notebooks, $3.99-4.99;

A Little Organization: 7 Days of Doodle Planner
This quirky little book is part planner, part sketchpad. On the bottom of each page, there's a weekly calendar, with enough room for students to write down their homework assignments. On the top, there's a doodle-rimmed area for them to add a few sketches, write longer notes, or scribble random observations. Compact, with a thick cardboard cover punctuated with hot pink cartoons, this planner is sure to help the middle school set stay organized. Plus, it's a cute way to sneak a little whimsy into your child's day... (7 Days of Doodle Planner, $14;

A Lock to Remember: Wordlocks
Got a kid who rides her bike to school? Forget remembering all those pesky numbers when it’s time to crack open the bike lock. Now students can dump the digits, in favor of a new type of lock, that uses words or letter combinations instead of numbers. Whether it's their own name, a favorite word like B-I-K-E or C-A-N-D-Y, or a random group of letters-- any 4- or 5- digit combo will do the trick. And parents can rest easy because even through the locks are as simple as pie, they're secure-- each bike or locker-ready padlock has 100,000 potential word and letter combinations. Brainstorming the secret password is half the fun. Plus, they come in a great mix of attention-grabbing colors. (Wordlock padlocks $9.99, Wordlock bike locks $14.99;

A Tall Drink of Water: Klean Kanteens
When it comes to hydrating your kids, you want something that's good for them and good for the planet. Forget plastic. With studies showing that it can leach hazardous chemicals like BPA, which are especially dangerous for growing bodies, we say break out the heavy metal! We like Kleen Kanteen's 12-oz stainless steel water bottle. Lightweight and available in a variety of funky colors-- from bright orange to electric blue, the bottles come with a choice of four different caps, from flat top to sports sipper. The sports caps are plastic, not metal, but they're made from polypropylene #5, which has no known leaching characteristics, and a steel screw-on lid is available for parents who'd like to avoid plastic altogether. Bottoms up! (Klean Kanteen water bottles, 12 oz-$14.95, 18 oz-$16.45, 27 oz-$17.95;

A Great Gadget: Mimobots
Who says storage needs to be boring? These 2-inch USB Flash drives can hold all the music, pictures, documents, and presentations students can throw at them, but they come in cool cartoon packages. From pop art, to pirates, the wacky looking drives bring major fun to functional. Whether it's moving data from home to school and back again, or porting information for a joint-project, at under 2 ounces and just a few inches tall, these little guys can easily fit in a pocket (let alone a backpack!) Available in 512MB, 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB capacities, each mimobot also comes preloaded with extras, like wallpaper, screensavers, avatars, and games-- fun add-ons that can be removed easily if your kid wants extra space. Our top picks? The whimsical Fairybit, or our favorite intergalactic golden boy, C3PO. Just beware, if these minis catch your fancy, be sure to order soon. Each bot is produced in limited editions-- so like the Chewbocca and R2D2 that came before them, once they're gone, they're gone. (Mimobot USB drive, prices range from $35-110, depending on style and capacity;

The Perfect Backpack
Nothing says back-to-school like a brand new bag, and yet finding the right backpack can seem like long division. Ergonomic or solar, snaps or zippers, pockets or pouches, the choices can be overwhelming. But, we've got the goods on what's fun and functional for the start of the school year. Here are three we love:

  • Help your little kid make a big splash this back-to-school season, with a backpack she creates herself! This comic caper scene, stitched on a canvas bag, needs your child's coloring expertise. It arrives in black-and-white mode, just like a coloring book, and comes with six permanent markers so your kid can bring the images to life. Recommended for lower to mid- elementary school grades. (Color a Comic Backpack, $26.00;
  • Medical professionals advise that kids carry no more than 10-15% of their body weight on their backs. Unfortunately, most students are hauling home a lot more than that. This backpack, developed by orthopedic professionals, helps to lighten the load, with an inflatable cushion for the lower back and wide foam-cushioned shoulder straps that are adjustable for correct ergonomic support. On the outside, they look like any other pack you'd see on the school bus, but behind the scenes, they're engineered to make sure your kid doesn't get stooped before his time...(Airpacks, $45-60;
  • By the time kids hit middle and high school, there's a lot to organize. Unfortunately, sometimes their bag doesn't offer much help. For students with a tendency towards the Black Hole Backpack Syndrome, these packs may be just the solution. Armed to the teeth with practical details like deluxe organizer panels with special pockets for everything from pencils to magazines, file dividers, fleece lined digital media pockets, insulated water bottle sleeves, and neoprene grab handles, they're also flush with cool design details like padded side-entry laptop protection systems, satin or fleece linings, and special sleeves to keep magazines crisp and sunglasses scratch-free. Whether your kid wants to strap on the Legend bag, designed by renowned skater Christian Hosoi (no need to leave the skateboard at home, there are special straps to make hauling it to school a piece of cake) or stick to something more sleek and modern, like the Newby, Hauler, or Epic, there are lots of designs to choose from here. A good place to start when you've got a kid who wants to strap on something a little different. (Ogio backpacks, bags range in price from about $45-80; or
Great Gear for the College Bound

Got a kid heading off to college for the first time? More likely than not, she's got been packing the family car in her head for months now. But beyond the tapestry she plans to hang from her ceiling, and the computer she's been loading with pictures and MP3 files, there are some extras that just might make the road to college a little smoother, and a little more fun. From gadgets to gear, here are eight items sure to put a smile on her face, as she unpacks her things this September...

A Surrogate Parent: Pocket Mom and Pocket Dad
With mom and dad far away, most college Freshmen will be happy to be free of all those pesky reminders to "take a coat" or "finish your vegetables." But they may be ill-equipped to take up the torch for all those other tasks parents take care of behind the scenes. This year, as your child heads off to college for the first time, arm him with tips and advice straight from the people who know best...parents. From how to make a budget, to how to iron a shirt, mending a broken heart to trussing a chicken, fixing a clogged drain to changing a flat tire, these two books are full of practical advice and how-to details. Sure, no one can replace the real mom and dad, but for those times when the phone is busy, or your kid is just too embarrassed to ask, this is the next best thing...(Pocket Mom by Dina Fayer and Pocket Dad by Dina and Bob Fayer, published by Quirk Books, each book $12.95;

A Steady Stream of Mail: College Student Care Package of the Month Club
You’ve probably heard of the Wine-of-the-Month Club or the Coffee-of-the-Month Club. Well, for parents who want to give a gift that keeps on giving, without hopping their kids up on caffeine, or giving them alcohol when they’re clearly underage, there’s a new kid in town: the College Student Care Package of the Month Club. Designed especially with the newbie college student in mind, membership guarantees a monthly package delivered direct to your kid’s dorm stoop. From a Housewarming Kit that includes enough toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and laundry detergent to get students started until they manage a trip to Target, all the way through to a box full of College Finals Brain Food, the monthly packages may not be quite as good as homemade cookies or a hand-knitted scarf, but they’ll come like clockwork—no remembering required… (College Student Care Package Of the Month Club, $150 for a school year subscription, including shipping;

Life in Stereo: The iMainGo 2 Portable Speaker System
Sure, teens these days are plugged straight into their music from earbud to iPod, but college is all about social interaction, and getting your music out in the open is the name of the game. The iMainGo 2 is just the ticket for mobile music, with its portable size, powerful speaker, and zippy convenience. Just open the case, nestle your MP3 player inside (the iMainGo 2 fits all iPods, the iPhone, Zune, SanDisk, Zen, and most other MP3 players), and zip closed. A front window allows for easy access to controls, leaving the speaker on the back to rock the house, with impressive range, power, and bass for such a small device. Great for popping into a backpack or whipping out on the quad, the iMainGo 2 is the ideal MP3 speaker for students on the go. (iMainGo 2 Portable Speaker System, $49.99;

A Cool Carryall: Chrome Messenger Bag
If book bags came in an all-terrain model, the Chrome Messenger bag would fit the bill. Devised for bike messengers on the long haul and designed to withstand the wear and tear of life in the bike lane, these messenger bags are the real deal for the student who needs durability, comfort, ample space, and that intangible element of cool. A hardy weatherproof liner keep books safe from rain, snow, and mud, while a roomy interior fits enough binders and notes to last a study session 'til morning. Throw in a seat-buckle styled chest strap, and you've got a self-assured student who's ready for everything. (Chrome Messenger Bag, comes in small, medium, large, and extra large, $104 and up;

PC Protection: Stuffitbag Laptop Sleeve
For the laptop lover who refuses to confine her shiny new computer to a stiff black case, these padded cuties are like stylish little sleeping bags-- stuffed just enough to keep your little Mac or Dell cozy and scratch-free. Light, affordable, and stylish, there are plenty of quirky prints to choose from and they're all handmade in Canada, so there's no need for your kid to sweat the idea of her new favorite "It"-item coming from a sweatshop. Stuffit bags fit easily into a backpack or briefcase, and each comes with a name tag, so when your kid's friends start clamoring for their own, no one snags the wrong computer by mistake. Eight stylish designs, ranging from funky stripes, to groovy waves, to oh-so-mod, these sleeves are designed by a college entrepreneur, and high on the hip factor. (Stuffitbag laptop sleeve, $25.00;

A Mini-Movie Theater: Epson MovieMate 50
Turn your kid's room into the hip dorm hangout spot, with The Epson Moviemate 50. This projector has a DVD player already built into it, so there's no need to hook it up to a computer, making it user-friendly and easily portable. It has a Dolby Digital sound system, but even if you've got an audiophile who isn't thrilled with the sound quality, there's a fully accessible jack for a separate set of speakers. Though super-lightweight, the Moviemate projects images up to 8 times larger than a 40-inch widescreen TV. All you need is a flat, light-colored wall with a smooth surface. The projector can also be used to show a looping slideshow of digital photos, and works with MP3 players and iPods, PC or Mac. Now if that's not a call for a night in, we don't know what is! (Epson Moviemate 50, $799,

The Perfect Party Mix(er): Merkury Innovations DJ Mixer for iPod
Nothing cools a roommate relationship faster than a fight over music. Help your kid get things off on the right foot, with this fun gadget. Whether it's basic mixing for a party in the dorm room, or just a little scratching to take a break between study sessions, this set-up allows for easy collaboration between two iPods, and it's an affordable entry into the world of DJ-- so your kid can mix her Rihanna with her roommate's Lucinda Williams. While many hardware and software competitors on the market take hours to figure out, this little guy takes a scant five minutes to set up. In other words, she'll be cue-ing, mixing, and fading her new buddies' music before you have a chance to say, "Homework done?" (Merkury Innovations DJ Mixer for iPod, $99.99,
An End to Kinkos Runs: HP Photosmart C4480 Printer
If your college student wants to avoid crowds in front of the printer five minutes before his essay is due, long lines at the copier, and high prices at the local photoshop, he may want to invest in a printer-copier that is reliable and compact. In this case, the HP Photosmart is just the ticket. Easy to use and small enough for a desk top, the HP Photosmart will print your kid's essays in laser-quality, and it also scans and copies regular and color documents, so there's no need to waste those laundry quarters on the library copy machine. Plus, by popping in the memory card, students can get high-quality photos in minutes. Though the printer is a steal at $99, your kid will pay a hefty price for all those scanned library books and snazzy holiday cards: HP cartridges are notoriously expensive. But, they also make great stocking stuffers! (HP Photosmart C4480 All-in-One Series, $99.99


Sponsors walking away from the Olympics

With the opening ceremonies for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games just days away, corporate sponsors are getting ready to do victory laps of their own. This year's Olympics have been hyped as a blockbuster for marketers, a chance to ride the wave of Chinese national pride that may translate into billions of dollars in sales of Adidas sneakers, McDonald's Big Macs, or General Electric wind turbines.

But Beijing 2008 is likely to go down as the high-water mark of the Olympic sponsorship program. While the Games offer unique attractions to sponsors, multinationals are already looking more critically at whether the payback will be worth it for future Games. Of the 12 global sponsors for the Beijing Olympics, only eight have signed on for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and 2012 Summer Games in London. (The International Olympic Committee sells sponsorships in four-year increments to cover both Winter and Summer Games.)

Among the high-profile sponsors deciding to back away is Lenovo. Its sponsorship of the 2006 Winter Games in Turin and the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing will be a one-time shot for the Chinese PC maker. Other current sponsors who so far have not committed to ponying up for the next pair of Games will be Johnson & Johnson and Manulife Financial. Even longtime Olympic supporter Eastman Kodak, a sponsor since the IOC first established its global partnership program in 1986, has pulled the plug. "It's just not the best way for us to spend our money," says Kodak Chief Executive Antonio Perez.


Euro economy shrinks, sparking recession fears

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The euro-zone economy shrank 0.2 percent in the second quarter, EU statistics showed Thursday, raising recession fears as Germany, France and Italy braked sharply with high fuel and food prices holding back consumer spending.

Worse seems yet to come, with European business and consumer confidence at the lowest level in more than five years in July, inflation hovering at the highest point since 1996 and the jobless rate climbing from an all-time low.

Still, the European Commission sought to downplay concerns Europe is verging on a recession, with spokeswoman Amelia Torres saying it would be "exaggerated to use that word."


McDonalds has a big appetite for China

BEIJING - Two decades ago, McDonald's was largely unknown here, except as a symbol of the decadent west. But a capitalist revolution has swept through the People's Republic. And today mainland China, still officially Communist, is home to 800 McDonald's restaurants — with 200 more in Hong Kong.

Jeff Schwartz, CEO of McDonald's China, says that’s just the beginning.

“I just look at China's 1.3 billion population,” he said. “U.S. (population) 300 million, 13,000 restaurants. China (population) 1.3 billion and 800 restaurants. Easily we're talking 10,000 to 5,000 restaurants as it continues to develop. So the opportunity is endless.”


The iPhone Kill-Switch Kerfuffle

And you thought Google's (GOOG) got the goods on you. Sure, the Web search leader keeps tabs on the searches that emanate from your PC. But consider the data dossier that could be drawn up on users of Apple's (AAPL) iPhone. Subscribers use the music-playing mobile phone not just for storing music, photos, and contact lists, but also for e-mail, Web surfing, and software downloads from Apple's iTunes.

Concern over how Apple and software developers that work with it might use some of that intel surfaced in recent days with reports that the company built in a "kill switch" that lets it disable applications it considers malicious, even after they've been downloaded onto a subscriber's phone. "The idea that Apple can choose what functionality my applications should have frightens me," Jon Zdziarski, who discovered the existence of the kill switch, recently wrote on his blog. "How about legislation that requires a mandatory kill switch be integrated into every human being, so that the police can kill an individual without even needing to dispatch an officer to a scene?"

But for all the unease over the kill switch, concerns over how Apple may use iPhone subscriber data may be misplaced, industry experts say. Apple isn't alone in monitoring the applications used on its phones. Carriers keep close tabs on what's being downloaded onto users' handsets. Mobile software retailer Handango regularly removes offending games and utility applications from its site if they appear to infringe on another company's copyright. "We have to do this all the time," says Handango CEO Bill Stone.

Overriding Privacy Laws?

Companies across the industry already collect oodles of user data. Handango, for instance, knows which phone model its customers use and which applications they buy, so it can recommend additional products. Microsoft (MSFT) and Nokia (NOK) gather information on people who sign up for their newsletters and mobile online communities. Windows Mobile devices come with an application that lets users volunteer to participate in market research. Phones of people who opt in send the Redmond (Wash.) giant information on how and when they are used. Microsoft uses the data to regulate the wireless bandwidth usage of phones.

Members of the Windows Mobile Total Access community provide Microsoft with name, location, phone purchase date, e-mail address, and job information. And both Nokia and Microsoft have their own "kill switch" tools—though they're more limited in scope than Apple's.

But as a rule, companies that collect user data comply with stringent privacy laws, and can typically view only aggregate user data. Apple didn't respond to multiple requests for comment but says in a disclaimer on its Web site: "We collect information regarding customer activities" through sites, including iTunes. "This helps us to determine how best to provide useful information to customers and to understand which parts of our websites, products, and Internet services are of most interest to them."

Apple's "Holy Grail"

Though Apple is hardly alone in gathering user data, it has the potential to collect more data than rivals. According to a survey of 460 iPhone users by market researcher Rubicon Consulting, 40% of the device's owners plan to download additional software. That means a huge percentage of iPhone users are now making purchases through the iTunes App Store. Thanks to iTunes, Apple already knows their tastes in music. Now it also knows which games they like to play, and which productivity applications they like to use.

Other handset makers rely more on piecemeal data shared by carrier partners or collected from small focus groups. The extra information could help Apple more quickly develop features and software its users want.

Apple can also track the quality of wireless networks its devices use by noting how fast downloads occur. "No one's been able to do that before," says Richard Doherty, director of consulting firm Envisioneering Group. "That's the holy grail. By continually monitoring how consumers are using the phone, they are able to be super-responsive to glitches." Apple can also push software updates onto phones. Users of some other mobile devices have to seek out software updates themselves.

Don't be surprised if those other manufacturers start following suit