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February 6, 2013

Technology News Briefs — Feb. 6, 2013

Amazon Launching Virtual Coins

Amazon is launching a virtual currency for its U.S. customers to spend in its Android App Store.

Dubbed Amazon Coins, the currency can be used to purchase apps, games and in-app items on Kindle Fire.

“When Amazon Coins launches in May, we will be giving out tens of millions of dollars worth of coins to customers to spend on Kindle Fire apps, games, or in-app items,” reads a company blog post. “For customers, it’s an easy way to spend money on Kindle Fire apps and games.”

Amazon customers will also have the option of purchasing more coins directly through their Amazon accounts.

Amazon said the coins will benefit app developers because it will offer shoppers an easy way to spend money on apps and in-app purchases. The developers’ cut will not change either — they will still receive 70 percent of the revenue no matter how a customer chooses to pay.

Developers with existing apps don’t have to do anything to be included in the Amazon Coins system. Those who are currently building apps or creating updates, however, will have to work fast — those approved by April will have a better chance of being available for coins purchases at the launch of the program.

IBM Debuts ‘Affordable’ Big Data, Cloud Storage Solutions

IBM is getting its competitive groove on with lower-cost Power Systems server and storage products.

The entry level and mid-range Power Systems, which will be available later this month, is a bid to make big data and cloud computing more affordable for small and mid-sized businesses.

“Big data and cloud systems that were once only affordable to large enterprises are now available to the masses,” said Rod Adkins, senior vice-president, IBM Systems and Technology Group. “With these new systems, IBM is forging an aggressive expansion of its Power and Storage Systems business into SMB and growth markets.”

IBM is rolling out eight new Power Systems for SMBs and growth market companies. New entry-level systems include the Power Express 710, 720, 730 and 740 family of products.

The company said the systems, which start at $5,947, are “competitively priced compared to commodity hardware from Oracle and HP.”

Microsoft to Open 11 New Stores

Microsoft will open five more stores this summer in addition to the six the firm announced Dec. 26.

The move is a continuation of Microsoft’s 2012 strategy to foster consumer awareness of its latest products — its Windows 8 operating system, Windows Phone 8 Smartphones, and its Surface tablets running Windows RT and Windows 8 — by letting people test drive its software and devices in person.

“Our customers continue to tell us that they value our stores for connecting them to the best of Microsoft,” said Jonathan Adashek, Microsoft’s general manager of communications and strategy, sales and marketing services group.

“This delights us to no end. From the newest touchscreen laptops, desktops, and tablets running Windows 8, to Windows Phones, to Xbox and Kinect consoles and accessories, to a wide array of first and third-party software titles, our goal is to introduce you to the best choice, value and service we have to offer.”

The five new retail stores will be located in:

• Natick Mall, Natick, Massachusetts;

• Ala Moana Center, Honolulu, Hawaii;

• Pioneer Place, Portland, Oregon;

• The Somerset Collection, Troy, Michigan;

• Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois.

The locations announced in December are:

• The Shops at La Cantera, San Antonio, Texas;

• Dadeland Mall, Miami, Fla.;

• Beachwood Place, Beachwood, Ohio;

• Westfield San Francisco Centre, San Francisco;

• City Creek Center, Salt Lake City;

• St. Louis Galleria, St. Louis.