Originally created 05/10/04

Techbits: Marketing e-mail, Green PCs, and more



NEW YORK -- Microsoft Corp., whose Hotmail and MSN services are inundated by spam, has contracted for a service that lets e-mail from legitimate companies more easily reach people's inboxes.

By marking certain bulk mailings as "good," Microsoft hopes to ultimately filter out the remaining unsolicited mail more aggressively, said George Webb, business manager for Microsoft's anti-spam group.

The idea is to address a common complaint now faced by e-mail providers: that they block too much legitimate mail erroneously.

The tool Microsoft will now use, from IronPort Systems Inc., requires bulk senders to post a bond to participate. If any bulk mailer draws too many complaints from recipients, money is deducted and donated to a charity committed to fighting spam.

Google, Cnet and about 50 other senders of newsletters and other commercial mailings are currently participating, said Scott Weiss, IronPort's chief executive. He said a few participants have been fined or ejected already, but he would not name them.

Microsoft's endorsement of IronPort could persuade additional e-mail senders as well as e-mail providers to join, Weiss said.

Messages bonded through IronPort still go through spam filters at Hotmail and MSN, but are given a high legitimacy score to increase their likelihood of passing. Recipients won't have the ability to give such messages special treatment - such as by having them automatically go to a junk folder.

John Levine, co-author of "Fighting Spam for Dummies," said the system can help prevent legitimate mail from disappearing but would do little to directly stop spam. And if service providers crank up filters on remaining mail as a result, he said, mailing lists for small organizations could get hurt.

-Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press

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SOLLENTUNA, Sweden -- Computer users tired of black or beige plastic now have a more natural choice.

Swedx, a maker of computer peripherals, sells custom-designed monitors, keyboards and mice encased in timber culled from Chinese forests.

The company is appealing to buyers who wants something distinguished from the plastic boxes sold in stores and online and may be concerned about the environmental dangers that tossed-out computer casings cause.

With ash, mahogany or beech, that flat-panel LCD stands out on any desk more than it would were it a solid black, says Swedx general manager Jan Salloum. He says the devices are more human because they combine technology with an old-world feel.

The wood isn't glued onto a plastic frame. Rather, the frame is custom-made in a deal Swedx has with Samsung.

Swedx produces its own circuit boards for the keyboard and mice, while Samsung supplies it with the circuitry and LCD panel to fit the monitor's wooden housings.

Swedx monitors range in size from 17 inches ($675) to 19 inches ($1,175). Keyboards retail for around $60. Optical, USB and wireless mice, made from a single block of wood, go for about $40.

Not for sale, however, are cases for CPUs.

"We have not decided yet, but we are cooperating with one company and working to do some samples," he said. "It depends on the response, but many customers ask us about PCs."

The company has sold thousands of the peripherals since it introduced them in 2002 and expects U.S. demand and sales to increase after CeBit America, scheduled for May 25-27 in New York.

-Matt Moore, Associated Press.

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NEW YORK -- Baseball addicts will be able to squint at video highlights on their cell phones under a deal MobiTV has struck with Major League Baseball.

MobiTV, a 6-month-old service that broadcasts such networks as Fox Sports and the Discovery Channel to Sprint mobile customers, is launching two baseball packages, for $9.99 a month each.

One package provides live audio of every game played, with choice of home or visiting team announcer. The other package features video highlights of the day's games.

"As the cell phone becomes a wallet for individuals, this is a great way to keep baseball close to fans," said Bob Bowman, chief executive of MLB.com.

To boost revenues, mobile phone companies have been pitching services beyond traditional calls and messaging.

Verizon Communications said last month its wireless customers sent 2.1 billion text messages in the first quarter and had 19 million downloads of videos and pictures from its "Get It Now" service, which features distractions ranging from 3D Grand Slam Ping Pong to psychic readings.

-Ellen Simon, Associated Press

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ATLANTA -- UPS has reached a deal with Yahoo! Inc. to make it easier for shippers to process orders, track packages and calculate costs online.

The tools will be accessible through Yahoo's small business section. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Over the last few years, UPS and rival FedEx Corp. have been scrambling to embed their online shipping tools into the business software and Web sites their customers use most.

FedEx tools are a seamless, exclusive part of the popular QuickBooks accounting program. UPS has an agreement with eBay and says its online tools are used by nearly 200,000 customers in 40 countries.