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TechBits Package

Smart phones outsell PCs for the first time

NEW YORK (AP) - For the first time ever, smart phones such as Apple Inc.'s iPhone are outselling personal computers, according to a report by research group IDC that was released Monday.

Worldwide, consumer electronics makers shipped 100.9 million smart phones in the last three months of 2010, an 87 percent jump from a year earlier. PC shipments were weaker than expected, edging up just 3 percent to 92.1 million.

The two trends aren't necessarily related, said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. Smart phones and PCs serve different purposes, and consumers generally need both. PCs remain important for writing papers, editing photos and creating other kinds of content.

PC sales are, however, have been hurt by competition from tablet computers - namely Apple's iPad.

Meanwhile, smart phones are getting a boost from falling prices. It's not uncommon to find brand-new models on sale for $100, a price Llamas says consumers are willing to pay. Some retailers, such as Inc., are willing to offer smart phones at steep discounts, sometimes for as little as a penny.

Smart phone sales are also getting a push from growing interest in Google Inc.'s Android software, which powers dozens of phones made by HTC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and others.

"Android continues to gain by leaps and bounds, helping to drive the smart phone market," Llamas said.

People also tend to replace their phones much more often than they do their computers. Consumers might wait three to five years to replace computers, some of which are protected under warranties that last several years. Meanwhile, cell phone subscribers often have the option of upgrading to a newer phone well before their two-year service contracts are up.

Such incentives are becoming less common, however. Last month, Verizon Wireless said it will phase out its early upgrade program, while Sprint Nextel Corp. said last week that it is making it more expensive for customers to upgrade ahead of schedule.

- Dana Wollman, AP Technology Writer


UK police aim to adapt to Twitter-led protests

LONDON (AP) - Authorities will have to move faster to help contain the increasing number of protests being organized and run through social media sites, Britain's police inspection body said Wednesday.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Constabulary said police forces would have to focus on speed and communication as demonstrators turn to Internet sites such as Twitter to coordinate their actions.

"Large numbers of protesters can be organized in hours and change their focus in minutes through the use of social media and mobile phones," the report said. "Those responsible for commanding events must plan with this adaptability in mind."

The report singled out UK Uncut, a protest group organized quickly by Twitter users upset at the government's plans to slash public spending and perceived tax avoidance by major British companies. The group has used social-networking sites to help coordinate their actions; the tools include a live mapping service intended to help protesters dodge police cordons.

The inspectorate said the agility of these new protests means that police have to work within "tighter timeframes, in a way that responds as swiftly as possible to events."

It also said that police forces - many of which have long been working to expand their online presence - would have to consider how best to communicate with tech-savvy protesters.

- Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press