Week In Tech Examined

Omar Gallaga of the Austin American-Statesman discusses the tech news of the week, including AT&T's decision to add multimedia-messaging services to its iPhone, and a classic Carl Sagan documentary auto-tuned to 2009 viral acclaim.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And for more of the latest tech news, I'm joined - as we are most Mondays - by Omar Gallaga. He covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman. Omar, welcome back.

OMAR GALLAGA: Hi, Melissa. Good to be here.

BLOCK: And let's start with some news from AT&T this week. This has to with iPhone users and the enabling of multimedia messaging services for iPhones. What does that mean, Omar?

GALLAGA: Well, an MMS message is basically a text message with a photo or a video attached. Previously, you could send text messages on the iPhone, but not with an image or a video. You had to send that as an email or in some other way. So this is a feature that's been missing from the iPhone and is pretty commonly available on most cell phones. So, it's been a pretty big gripe for iPhone users to not have that feature. And AT&T finally enabled that on Friday with a software update.

BLOCK: So, how big a deal is that?

GALLAGA: Well, it is a big deal to iPhone users who felt that this was a feature that's pretty basic; a lot of cell phones have this and the iPhone didn't. So it gives them the ability to do that, but I think it also points to AT&T's hesitation to introduce a lot of next-gen features that are going to put additional strain on its 3G network, which is already pretty stretched to the brink with all of the smart phones transmitting video and other kinds of data. If you've ever been to a big event like a football game or a concert with lots of people, they're using their smart phones. You see that there are problems with data transmission sometimes.

BLOCK: Well, let's move from AT&T to Microsoft now and a marketing misstep for the company. This has to do with the new operating system Windows 7. What's going on with this?

Mr. GALLAGA: Right. Well, Windows 7 is coming out at the end of October and to kind of drum up interest and get people excited about it, Microsoft suggested that people throw Windows 7 parties - that they host a party, put up balloons, have people over, and try some of the new features. And where this misstep was, was in this six-minute video that kind of popped up online showing you how to host a Windows 7 party. And the video has sparked quite a bit of derision online, so it wasn't exactly doing a lot of favors for Windows 7.

BLOCK: Yeah, we'll get a sense of it here. This is part of the video, and you can hear it's just pretty darned forced and hokey. Take a listen.

(Soundbite of video, "Windows 7")

Unidentified Woman #1: Now after my overview, I went straight to an activity.

Unidentified Woman #2: Oh, you went straight to the activity.

Unidentified Woman #1: Oh, well I let everybody fool around with Snap for a little while.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Woman #1: And then we started an activity maybe 30 minutes later.

Unidentified Woman #2: Well, either way works…

BLOCK: Yeah, just a little spontaneous banter there around the kitchen.

Mr. GALLAGA: Just fooling around with Snap, Windows 7.

BLOCK: And you're saying columnists have really taken Microsoft to task over this.

Mr. GALLAGA: Yeah, I first saw it in a Seattle Times column and yeah, people are very - it's just one of those examples of Microsoft not quite hitting the mark in marketing and trying to kind of hip it up and not quite getting there. I mean, I actually think their 4-and-a-half-year-old spokesperson, Kylee(ph), does a much better job being authentic and getting the word out about Windows than any of these more forced efforts do.

BLOCK: There's some tech news, in a sense, coming out of Hollywood, too. A Facebook movie in the works with some pretty big names attached to that project.

Mr. GALLAGA: Right. The movie is called "The Social Network," and it was recently announced that Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg, who stars in the new movie "Zombieland," will play Facebook founding president Sean Parker and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Now this isn't a made-for-TV, low-budget movie like "Pirates of Silicon Valley." This is actually a pretty big production. It boasts a script from Aaron Sorkin and will be directed by David Fincher, whose last movie was "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." So, we are talking about a pretty significant Hollywood movie about the founding of Facebook.

BLOCK: And we can't leave you today, Omar, without talking about an updated version of something that's making the rounds. They're taking Carl Sagan's PBS TV series "Cosmos," and they have set it to music and auto-tuned it, and here is the result.

(Soundbite of song, "A Glorious Dawn" )

Mr. CARL SAGAN (Author, "Cosmos"): (Singing) I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand the cosmos in which we float like a (unintelligible) of dust in the morning sky…

BLOCK: Amazing what you can find on YouTube.

Mr. GALLAGA: A friend of mine at the blog MiscellaneousEtCetera tipped me off to that. It's a tribute to Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking by a musician named John Boswell. It's called "A Glorious Dawn" and if you ever wanted to hear Carl Sagan using auto-tune, well, there it is. And it's taken from samples and footage from Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" and Stephen Hawkins' "Universe" series, and we will be posting the video on our All Tech Considered blog at npr.org/alltech. You can check that out later today.

BLOCK: Yeah, it is pretty mesmerizing. Omar, thanks so much.

Mr. GALLAGA: Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: Omar Gallaga covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman and for All Tech Considered.

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