Monday, November 2, 2009

Posts on handset makers, carriers and Oracle

I wrote a number of earnings stories during this period on AT&T, Microsoft, Motorola and Sprint.

But I also got a couple of stories out of covering a Sprint developers' conference in Santa Clara:

Sprint touts 4G possibilities at developer conference
Internet-ready Ford F-150 at Sprint conference

Sprint removes barriers to Google Voice, Skype, Vonage

I also followed the continuing opposition to the Oracle acquisition of Sun when a deal critic came to Silicon Valley from Europe.

Oracle-Sun critic doubts Oracle's 'promises' to support MySQL

I ended the week receiving my demo of the Samsung Moment from Sprint, which I played with over the weekend and posted my review of Nov. 1, the day it went on sale:

Samsung's Moment has arrived

Samsung Moment from Sprint

A couple of days I posted two stories in one day, earning me the number 1 position as top San Jose Examiner for having the most page views.

Persuasive Marketing

I've been blogging the last few months for Persuasive Marketing, a blog site from the firm Attain Marketing, based in North Carolina. Lorraine Kauffman-Hall, who once worked PR for a tech company I covered in Silicon Valley, is now with Attain and asked me to write about PR from the media's perspective. Here are some of the posts:

Top Ten things PR people show never say to the media (Part 1):

Top Ten things PR people should never say to the media (Part 2):

Ignore Facebook at your peril:

Twitter me this:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gov. Schwarzenegger at Oracle gathering

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise appearance at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco Oct. 14 to "pump you up," he told an audience of technology geeks.

Busy day Monday with Sidekick debacle

Monday Oct. 12 was a busy day as I tried to keep up with changing developments in the story of T-Mobile dealing with irate customers because they lost the data backup for their Sidekick smartphones. It seems Microsoft and Danger (the latter, the maker of the Sidekick that was acquired by Microsoft in 2008) suffered a server malfunction that wiped out nearly all the data of users it was supposed to be storing.
T-Mobile store in Antioch, Calif.

Here's the initial report on it, updated once with more information.

And here's the second story about how T-Mobile said the situation had been resolved.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My report on AT&T Prepaid phone plan

AT&T is offering a new prepaid calling plan, one of many carriers pushing prepaid plans as an alternative to post-paid plans where the subscriber is tied to a contract for two years.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

On AT&T, Apple, BlackBerry and other gadget news

A couple recent posts of mine on

AT&T reverses course on VoIP on iPhone; an analyst doubts its stated motives:

AT&T allows wider use of Skype; urges FCC light touch

Apple quits U.S. Chamber of Commerce over global warming skepticism

Apple takes a stand on climate change

Good news for BlackBerry users

BlackBerry to support Adobe Flash

Palm dilemma: how to price Pixi when Pre prices falling

Prices falling for Palm Pre

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ellison on pending acquisition of Sun

Tech journalists and others listened with interest when Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison spoke about the pending acquisition of Sun Microsystems during a presentation at the Churchill Club Monday Sept. 21 in San Jose.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Recent Examiner posts

I have been drawn to other assignments that have kept me from posting as often as I would have wanted to on, but here are a few of my latest reports:

Gadget ideas for the 'Hybrid Mom'
Sept. 17
Linux makes headway in netbooks, smartphones
Aug. 13

Plantronics Voyager 975 hits the market
Aug. 20

Symark acquires BeyondTrust in security access space

Sept. 12

Open Table and other mobile apps news

Sept. 14

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Busy Tuesday

Tuesday Aug. 4 was a busy day for me as an Examiner. First, I covered a Churchill Club event in Mountain View featuring Aneesh Chopra, President Obama's chief technology officer:

Then I drove up to San Francisco to cover a launch party for a gadgets Web site:

I also kept up on events related to the release of the Current TV journalists imprisoned in North Korea. I had written about a vigil held for them in San Francisco in June:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Good and Bad News About Apple

The good news: Anticipation is building that Apple will introduce a tablet computer to the market this fall. The story: "Apple Tapplet, Anyone?"
The bad news: Apple is telling developers they, not Apple, should pay back customers whose iPhone applications were banished from Apple's App Store. One of the developers relates an absurd and frustrating conversation with an Apple representative from whom he was trying to get answers as to why his app was banned. The story: "Apple, the unbenevolent dictator."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Apple and AT&T irk fans of iPhone and Google Voice

I'd been behind the curve on following this flap over the last week, busy with other assignments. But now the FCC is getting involved in the decision by Apple to ban the VoIP application Google Voice from its App Store. It seems using your iPhone to make calls over a VoIP provider conflicts with the financial interests of AT&T, which is the exclusive carrier in the U.S. for the iPhone. Some say this is anti-competitive and that people Hope FCC can rein in Apple, AT&T.
Line forms outside the Apple store in
Santa Clara, Calif., the day the
iPhone 3GS goes on sale

A little off the beaten path but not by much. This post, titled "Irish entrepreneurs search for Silicon Valley pot of gold," is about a trade mission to Silicon Valley by some Irish entrepreneurs and economic development advocates. One of them is a guy whose gadget allows people to buy songs to play on their cell or smart-phone via text message.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More on netbooks, Symbian

I've been following the netbook trend of smaller, cheaper laptop computers, including AT&T's adding netbook models to its offering. I snapped this photo of an AT&T employee demonstrating the netbooks at the store in Santa Clara.

Also this week I attended OSCON, the Open Source Convention, in San Jose. One interesting session was a tutorial on Symbian, the mobile OS that is little known in the US but the market share leader everywhere else in the world. I was fortunate to run into Laura Merling (see below) of the Symbian Foundation, whom I'd interviewed before when I worked for SD Times and IDG News Service.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My latest posts

Thursday I attended the MobileBeat 2009 conference in San Francisco and wrote about Palm releasing its software development kit for creating applications to run on its Pre smartphone.
There were a number of other interesting panels including this one pictured below in which an entrepreneur (far left) pitches his business idea to a panel of investors and other experts. There were several entrepreneurs who spoke. The panel then voted on who had the best idea. It was hosted by Natali Del Conte (second from left) of Cnet and CBS.
The day before MobileBeat, I wrote about how Apple, as expected, upgraded iTunes in a way that disabled the sync functionality on Palm Pres running iTunes. Asked about it at MobileBeat, Palm's Michael Abbot (pictured here) could only reiterate the company line that Apple is only hurting its own iTunes users by preventing syncing on Pre, but that there are workarounds to continue to add songs to your iTunes library on Pre.
Also, I took a look at SmartSwipe, a credit card reader that someone can plug into their computer to make purchases online. Secure, for sure, but a potential enabler of binge shopping.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Netbook or Notebook

I wrote this post the other day comparing netbooks and notebooks...

Netbook or Notebook?

HP Mini 1000

...and this item about the myTouch 3G going on sale...

T-Mobile takes orders for myTouch 3G

HTC myTouch 3G

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New iPhone spurs market for refurbished phones

Here's another Examiner post I wrote about how the popularity of the new iPhone has given a boost to the market for refurbished iPhones and other smartphones. It includes mention of a friend of mine, Tara Sims (right, with me in photo below), who bought the 3GS and didn't just throw her BlackBerry in the back of a drawer, but gave it to charity.
Elsewhere, at least one company pays people for their old iPhones and refurbishes them. RapidRepair, in Michigan, was flooded with requests from new 3GS owners to buy their first and second generation iPhones from them for up to $200.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Latest posts to

It's been another busy week for me at

I went off my gadgets beat for this story on Two Journalists Held in North Korea (right) as I attended a vigil in their honor in San Francisco. I added a slide show of photos I took at the event.

Then I wrote about The Wonderful World of (Gadget) Color about how product designers are using bright colors to distinguish their new gadgets from the basic and boring black and grey of previous models.

Back on the Bluetooth beat, after a couple of stories about Santa Cruz-based Plantronics, I got to try out the new Jawbone Prime (left) from competitor Aliph for a few days.

As part of my continuing coverage of new smartphone introductions, I revisited the Palm Pre for a story on how its sales have exceeded expectations.

AT&T Mobility made some news this week by announcing it's going to start selling netbooks to small business customers who can use the carrier's wireless broadband service.

And lastly, I noted the passing of Michael Jackson in a post noting how social media, on gadgets like smartphones and laptops, spread the word of his death.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Busy day on the tech beat

Monday June 22 was a busy day for me on the tech beat with three posts:

Here's a post about a guy who takes brand new tech devices, like the iPhone 3GS, and tears them apart to see what's inside. "OMG! My new iPhone! In pieces!"

For the first time since he went on medical leave in January, Steve Jobs was quoted in an Apple news release, this time about opening weekend box office for the iPhone 3GS. "Steve Jobs back on the job?"

Kudos are in order to the people at the New York Times with a timely report about the culture of secrecy at Apple.

Also, Monday, another entrant in the smartphone wars: "T-Mobile's myTouch 3G smartphone revealed."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My coverage of the iPhone 3G S launch

Like a lot of other tech journalists, I was drawn Friday morning to my friendly local neighborhood Apple store to witness the launch of the new iPhone 3G S. Here's the story I posted on "New Apple iPhone goes on sale."
An Apple employee demos the iPhone 3G S
to customers at Apple's Valley Fair Mall Store.

Also, word came out today in the Wall Street Journal that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had a liver transplant. I can't link to the story because WSJ is password-protected, but here's the San Jose Mercury News report on the WSJ story.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My continuing coverage of Pre v. iPhone

In my continuing coverage of the Palm Pre and Apple iPhone, I wrote a story for titled Palm Pre playing catch-up in apps race.

Monday, June 15, 2009

It's hard out there for an iPhoner

A report on some problems, more like irritants, for iPhone fans.

And another Examiner post, this one on one of the cool apps to be available on the Apple iPhone 3.0 OS and the coming iPhone 3G S: "Find My iPhone."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Apple iPhone 3G S, the S is for SPEED!

Just two days after the Pre launch, Apple introduced the new iPhone 3G S. What's worse, for Palm, is Apple lowered the price of the existing Palm 3G to $99, half of what the Pre goes for after rebate. But they're on different carriers. I wrote about the new iPhone for and then wrote a separate post on about one of the nifty apps on iPhone, Find My iPhone.

I've also written additional stories for ITWorld, including this from JavaOne about an RFID company called Touchatag and another JavaOne story about the proliferation of app stores.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Palm Pre launch

I've been following with interest the launch of the Palm Pre smartphone.

In reverse chronological order, here's my post on a Pre launch party.

Sprint launches Palm Pre posted June 5

Next is the most-read of my posts, with 22 comments, a personal best!

Controversy about Sprint's Palm Pre plans posted May 22.

And an early preview.

From Palm, a Pre preview posted May 21.


I managed to get a few stories for out of my covering Sun Microsystems' JavaOne 2009 conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Sun to open Java Store for selling apps posted June 2.

Sony Ericsson needs apps developers posted June 3.

I wrote two other stories for IT World. Postings

I've been writing a lot more posts for as the San Jose Gadget Examiner.
Here are a few of them:

Garmin's new GPS handhelds posted May 7

Kindle DX launch
posted May 6

Selling technology to women fraught with peril posted May 16

Launch of Voyager Pro Bluetooth from Plantronics posted April 27

You can read all of my Examiner posts on my home page.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Robert reporting from the RSA Conference

I just completed a freelance assignment covering the RSA Conference 2009 for RSA.

I wrote 17 stories that were posted on the conference Web site during the week long event April 20-24. I interviewed keynoters and wrote stories on several of the breakout sessions. Here are just a few:

"Lax security can invite lawsuits" is about a panel discussion, moderated by CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, about legal issues related to e-discovery and company liability for data breaches.

"Innovation Sandbox winner announced" is about a competition among early-stage tech security companies who presented their innovations and business plans to a panel of judges.

"Social networks present new risks for malware, ID theft, etc." is about how people let down their guard when visiting "friends" on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.

"Tackling Cyber Security Challenges Today" was a very interesting panel about how the U.S. government, including the National Security Agency, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, are trying to protect cyberspace from attack.

"The 'MythBusters' stars next challenge: Is code unhackable?" Is about the Discovery Channel show whose co-hosts gave a keynote on the last day of RSA Conference 2009.

More Examiner posts

I've added a few more posts to, which I hope you'l appreciate.

I had a lot of fun writing about my exasperating experience with Facebook, which I chronicled in the post "Facebook's Catch-22 Rule."

This post is from my coverage of the Embedded Systems Conference about wireless mesh networks: "Wireless networks can help around the house."

Another ESC story about tear-downs, where engineers take apart a product to show you how it works -- or in this case, didn't work: "Nintendo's 'Virtual Boy' undergoes autopsy at ESC."

This was a fun story from ESC about a computer that mounts on a shopping cart handle and organizes your shopping trip. "Now you'll have no excuse to forget the milk."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Examiner post

I posted another blog item on about a new Bluetooth headset product coming from Plantronics.
If you go to this page and bookmark it, you will see all my Examiner posts on one page as I make them.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My new role as an "Examiner"

I finally started posting articles in the last week for, the blogging site for the San Francisco Examiner newspaper. The paper has recruited an army of several hundred bloggers, mostly in the Bay Area but also in some other U.S. cities, to write about everything under the sun. We make a pittance, but it could result in some valuable exposure and help build a porfolio of articles.
Here are the first four articles I wrote:

Plantronics takes 'one giant leap' for managing multimedia audio
Savi Office introduction. March 31

Now you'll have no excuse to forget the milk
Shopping cart-mounted computer. March 31

Nintendo's 'Virtual Boy' undergoes autopsy at ESC
Failed product, April 1

Wireless networks can help around the house
Mesh networks, April 6

Be sure to click on the link "Add Robert to Favorite Examiners" and come back often.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Venture Capital Forecast 2009

I learned about the state of the venture capital industry at another Churchill Club forum, this one in Palo Alto. It featured three VCs and an angel investor Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn. The story I posted on is titled "Top 20 VC Firms Should be Okay."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Future of Newspapers

I accepted a recent invitation to attend a meeting of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Silicon Valley Chapter. The program, held at Microsoft's campus in Mountain View, featured two technology reporters and an editor from the San Francisco bureau of The New York Times. They spoke about how they work with PR people, like the 50 or so at the event and how they are adapting to the new media landscape of distributing news online, on blogs and even via Twitter. I wrote about the event for in an article titled: "Newspapers Have to Adapt or Die."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

When the housing crisis gets literally too close to home

I’d seen stories on TV news about how people who’d lost their homes just packed up what they could into their cars, after which crews would come and clear out everything else they’d left behind. This Sunday I saw it happen in my own neighborhood.

A bank-owned home being "trashed-out" in Santa Clara.

I was walking my dog in a light afternoon rain when I came upon this scene: a “Bank Owned” real estate sign planted in front of a modest three-bedroom tan stucco-walled home in the 500 block of Chapman Court, just off The Alameda, in Santa Clara. Parked across the street was a dumpster, filled with a mattress, armchairs, shelves and other possessions that had made that house a home. Shuttling back and forth between the house and the dumpster were three men working in what is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the country: clearing out foreclosed homes.

The crew leader, José, said he works for a Las Vegas company that, despite being overwhelmed with work clearing out homes in that distressed market, dispatched him here where there is also plenty of work. Since he arrived in the San Jose area seven days ago, José said he’s not had a day off and averages 16 of these house-clearing projects a day.

Banks and mortgage lenders hire such companies to clear out foreclosed homes and clean them up so they can be put back on the market as quickly as possible, so the lender can make some of their money back.

A child's school photo left behind

The onetime owner of the Chapman Court house did come back after moving out to retrieve some valuable items, José said, such as TV sets or computers, and what was left behind was rightly headed to the landfill or at best a rummage sale. But I’ve seen cases in which seemingly everything was left behind. A report aired on a recent "NBC Nightly News" but I'm having trouble including the link. But here's another report from PBS’s “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” from Oct. 2008 on clearing out abandoned homes.

In the NBC report, golf clubs, sofas, paintings and some personal items are taken away by “trash-out companies” and while some items are set aside to be given to charities, many were simply thrown out. In the PBS report, residents left behind newer TVs, computers, important documents like a birth certificate and other perfectly good items.

A dumpster of what had made this house a home

It’s bad enough that people lose their homes. But I find it just heartbreaking that people find themselves in such desperate straits that they have neither the time nor the resources to try to save some of their belongings in order to furnish their next home, even if it’s only going to be a rental.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Worst of Recession Lies Ahead

I attended a frankly chilling discussion Wednesday on the economy at an event sponsored by the Churchill Club, a public affairs forum. Two Silicon Valley executives, a venture capitalist and a well-known law professor presented a sobering forecast about how the economy is going to fall further before picking back up again. I wrote about the event in an article titled Worst of Recession Lies Ahead, which is posted on One of the panelists, Lisa Lambert of Intel Capital, pointed out that it has been during some of the worst economic downturns that some of the biggest innovations have come to market. Such Historical Perspective can provide reason for optimism in these bleak times.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A burst of creative energy on

I got ambitious the other day and pounded out TWO posts. The first was on new distribution model for software in which enterprises access applications online rather than installing it on their own network. The story "SaaS Growth Depends on Integration" looks at how SaaS applications have to work well together with on-premise apps.

The other story was on cars, specifically plug-in hybrid electric cars. I've written a couple of stories of gas-electric hybrids, but this was my first on plug-ins. The story, "Electric Cars Will Need a Fill-up, too," looks at two different business models for developing electric car charging stations.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Robert the car guy

Besides writing about technology, I've also been blogging of late on one of my favorite subjects: I'm a car guy. I write for a blog site called It's called 101 because a lot of the posts are how-to in nature, like an introductory college course, 101.
Here's one I posted recently on the Honda Insight, an upcoming challenger to the Toyota Prius among hybrid cars.

I also wrote this preview of the Ford Fusion Hybrid due in the spring.

Earlier I wrote about other gas-sipping cars that aren't hybrids, such as the Honda Fit.
My neighbor just bought one of these. I'm not sure whether this dilutes my "brand" as a tech journalist or just shows my versatility. In the stories, I do write about hybrid technology so I think it covers both. And according to sage career advice: "Do what you love and the money will follow."
(Photos are courtesy of Honda and Ford.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

E-discovery versus Web 2.0

I had a new blog item posted this week on about the concerns companies have that communications on new technology like texting, Facebook and even Twitter could be subject to e-discovery laws. Check it out.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

GigaOM Post

I've had the opportunity to also write for the popular technology industry site GigaOm. One of its properties, Earth2Tech, is devoted to green tech news. It posted Jan. 14 my report, "Solar's Dirty Side is Being Ignored, Report Says," about an environmental group's study of hazards related to solar panel manufacturing. It's a followup to a story I posted on Earth2Tech earlier, previewing the upcoming report, "Cadmium: The Dark Side of Thin Film?"
It's clear that green technology is an emerging field that offers new opportunities for me as a journalist.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

IDG News/Network World

From August 2006 to November 2007, I was a writer for IDG News Service, the wire service for multiple IDG publications, and for Network World, one of the IDG titles. Here are a few samples of my work.

Before I was hired, most of Network World's reporters were based in Boston or scattered elsewhere in the U.S. I offered the advantage of being based in Silicon Valley. My editor said this was the type of story they were looking for from a Silicon Valley-based reporter: "Unauthorized iPhone Apps Market Fluorishes" Sept. 26, 2007

Network World has been active in making their Web site more dynamic, with multimedia features such as slide-shows. I covered a conference at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. My story, "Deconstructing the PC revolution," was accompanied by a slide show of photos I took of computers that are literally museum pieces! Nov. 5, 2007

This is a major project story I wrote about an IT upgrade for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in San Francisco: "Process makeover keeps BART on track" Oct. 12, 2007

One of my main beats at Network World, as well as at IDGNS, was storage technology. This article explored the problem many enterprises experienced of buying too much storage because much of the capacity was set aside for various groups but little used. "When in doubt, buy more storage" April 23, 2007

At IDG News, I was the lead reporter on coverage of the HP pretexting scandal. My experience included being prevented by handlers from trying to interview CEO Mark Hurd about the scandal at an HP conference in Houston. Some of the other stories:

"HP CEO calls pretexting probe a 'rogue' investigation" Sept. 26, 2006

"Dunn to 'set the record straight' in HP case" Sept. 21, 2006

I also covered a federal court hearing over a lawsuit against telecoms for cooperating with the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. This analysis column was called "Reporter's Notebook: NSA suit like Alice's Wonderland" Aug. 16, 2007
To inquire about Robert Mullins' availability for full or part time work, please write me at or call at 408-243-4302