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MTV to offer fee-based Internet music downloads

MTV Networks cable-television network unit will start an Internet subscription service allowing customers to receive music files that can be loaded on portable devices.

The service will be available this year and will use Microsoft Corp. software, said Jonathan Usher, Microsoft's director of Windows digital media marketing.

MTV spokeswoman Jeanine Smartt declined to provide details on the service, such as the subscription cost or its features. Usher said the service will charge a monthly fee.

Service transfers TiVo recordings to computers

TiVo has introduced a novel, if controversial, feature that will allow subscribers who want portable video to transfer recorded television shows and movies to their computers.

TiVoToGo lets people move recorded episodes of Desperate Housewives, for instance, from their TiVo boxes onto their laptops or archive the whole season on disc, using their computer's DVD-authoring hardware and software.

The Hollywood studios tried to stop the launch of TiVoToGo in the summer, saying it would contribute to piracy on the Internet. Despite the objections, the Federal Communications Commission cleared the way for TiVoToGo in August.

The new feature will be available to a subset of TiVo's 2.3-million subscribers who own stand-alone Series2 boxes. These TiVos are designed to work on an existing home network to grab digital pictures, music and other content stored on a computer and bring them into the entertainment center. Series2 TiVo boxes will automatically receive a software upgrade.

SideStep travel service to be available via Web browser

SideStep Inc., a popular alternative to larger online travel sites, is making its free price comparison service available through a Web browser.

Until last week, travelers had to install software on their computers to sift through a SideStep index of the best Internet deals from more than 100 airlines, hotels and rental car agencies. The software threatened to lose its competitive edge as more industry upstarts introduce similar services accessible through Web browsers.

SideStep says 7.7-million people have downloaded its software.

Mapquest feature sends maps, directions to cell phones

A new feature from Mapquest will allow Web users to send color maps and driving directions to their phones.

Through partnerships with most major service providers, Mapquest lets users get maps and directions through a phone application called Mapquest Mobile, a premium service that usually costs about $4 a month.

But until now, users had to type in addresses on tiny cell phone keypads.

The new version lets users get directions by entering three-letter airport codes. And users can visit from a regular PC, use its full-size keyboard to plan trips and hit a button to send the results to the phone. While on the road, friends and assistants also can send maps and directions for them.

Survey quantifies cell phone customers' dissatisfaction

Problems with your cell phone? You're not alone.

A new survey by Consumer Reports found nearly 70 percent of frequent wireless phone users reported at least one dropped call in the previous week. Nearly 60 percent had a bad connection. In addition, most of the monthly's readers had problems shopping for another wireless phone service or were disappointed when they contacted their carrier with a question, despite industry claims that they are giving consumers ever bigger buckets of minutes for their money.

The magazine, which conducted a random survey of 39,000 online subscribers in 17 cities last fall, said readers were less than satisfied with their cell phone service, putting cell phone companies on par with much-derided cable TV providers and health maintenance organizations.

Verizon Communications finished No. 1 in customer satisfaction the survey. T-Mobile was second.

Internet users frequently turn to blogs, study shows

More than 8-million Americans have created an online blog, Web log, or Web-based diary, according to a study released Sunday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

"By the end of 2004, blogs had established themselves as a key part of online culture," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet project.

The study found that 27 percent of Internet users _ 32-million people _ read blogs. That is a 58 percent jump from 10 months ago, Rainie said.

Instant messaging's popularity soars with workers

Instant messaging grew popular with teenagers in the 1990s because the supercharged e-mail program enabled them to see whether their buddies were logged on to computers and then chat in real time.

As those teens have entered the work force, corporate technology departments have noted that employees are increasingly downloading popular software from Yahoo, America Online or MSN to their workstations.

The result: Instant messaging is used now at 85 percent of businesses, whether for personal or sanctioned purposes, according to the Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif., research firm. But only about 20 percent of employers have instant messaging policies, compared with nearly 80 percent that have e-mail rules, according to the ePolicy Institute.

Wireless carriers seek to enable instant video transmission

More than two dozen wireless carriers and telecom equipment makers have agreed to develop an advanced mobile phone standard to enable subscribers to send and receive high-resolution video instantly.

Companies taking part include Cingular Wireless of the United States, British mobile giant Vodafone Group PLC, China Mobile, Japanese electronics manufacturer NEC Corp. and NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan's top mobile phone carrier.

The idea is to improve upon third-generation, or 3G, phone technology. Such phones can relay information at up to about 40 times the speed of current handset models and is starting to take off among the tech-savvy in Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and other European nations.

Compiled from Times wires