Week in review: Inauguration goes interactive

Streaming, texting, and Twittering the inauguration, while earnings bring mixed bag. Also: Security concerns.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
6 min read

Barack Obama was sworn in as president in what may be the nation's most interactive inauguration ceremony so far.

As millions of people in Washington and around the globe watched a weekend of festivities, culminating with Tuesday's ceremony, they gave their instant feedback online and through text messages and other means to family, friends, and anyone else listening. At the same time, event organizers were able to give spectators live updates about the state of affairs in the nation's chilly, crowded capital.

Most people who watched the inauguration did it through traditional television broadcasts, a medium that hasn't changed significantly in half a century. But it was also possible to tune in online; our sister site CBSNews.com, for instance, streamed the inauguration live over the Internet. And people learned about the inaugural action from pictures uploaded by friends, comments on Twitter and other social media, and direct text messages from event organizers.

From what early numbers are indicating, the historic swearing-in of President Obama was not the biggest traffic day for the Internet. But for many social networks and digital-media sites, Inauguration Day shattered traffic and usage records regardless.

Content delivery network Akamai numbers indicate traffic on the Web peaked right before noon Eastern time, with about 5.4 million visitors per minute flocking to online news outlets. While this is 22 percent above normal online news consumption, per Akamai, it's not a record. Obama's victory in November pulled in nearly 8.6 million visitors per minute. But the inauguration did break an all-time record for the number of simultaneous video streams.

CNN.com said it has served more than 18.8 million live video streams, including 1.3 million at the same time right before Obama gave his address, since 6 a.m. EST. That's a record: Election Day served up only 5.3 million live streams.

Facebook, which partnered with CNN for a live feed of inauguration "status" updates, reported that as of 10:15 a.m. PST Tuesday, 600,000 status messages had been set using the CNN app, and an average of 4,000 Facebook status updates were set every minute during the inauguration.

As Obama began his inaugural address, his aides were busy switching over Whitehouse.gov. Until 11:59 a.m. EST, the Web site featured a photograph of former President Bush leaving the White House for the last time. The relaunched site's most prominent feature is an oversize photo of the new president next to the slogan: "Change has come to America."

As with the Clinton-Bush site handover, Obama's site has its bugs. The site administrators posted an entry saying Obama "was sworn in" before that happened; another post titled "Read the Inaugural Address" was blank an hour after Obama finished giving it; some photo captions were incorrect; and the search option didn't work reliably.

During the inauguration, people curious about unfamiliar references used Google to supply the footnotes for the ceremony. The phenomenon was visible on Google Trends, a service that shows which search terms are rapidly rising in use.

According to the U.S. results, Isabel Toledo, who designed First Lady Michelle Obama's dress, bubbled up to fifth place on the list earlier in the day. Once the ceremony began, up came violinist Itzhak Perlman (ninth place), cellist Yo-Yo Ma (12th place), composer John Williams (26th place), and the variation on the Simple Gifts melody (14th place) that he wrote and the musicians played. Aretha Franklin rose up to third place for a time, too, and even "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" ranked 21st at one point.

Observers looking for unique perspectives turned to GeoEye-1, the satellite that will supply Google with high-resolution imagery of the Earth, for a high-resolution photograph of the ceremony. These shots show a bit more tantalizing detail about what will show in Google Earth and Google Maps. It was taken from 423 miles up as the 4,300-pound satellite traveled 17,000 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, CNN used Microsoft's Photosynth to stitch together dozens of photos of the inauguration to allow it to be viewed from multiple angles.

Earnings season
As a new round of earnings reports kicked off, many companies' bottom line mirrored the declining economy, but a few companies managed to buck the trend.

Apple reported first-quarter earnings that were significantly higher than analysts had expected coming off a disappointing holiday season for most tech companies, but provided its usual conservative guidance. Apple sold 2.5 million Macs during the quarter, 22 million iPods, and 4.3 million iPhones. The Mac shipments were about in line with expectations, the iPod shipments were significantly higher, and iPhone shipments were slightly less than estimates that ran all over the map.

Google seemed to do well also, but the numbers are a little tricky. For the last quarter of 2008, the search giant reported net income of $382 million for the quarter, a major drop from $1.21 billion from the year-earlier quarter. But that apparent drop was mostly because of two non-cash charges writing down the value of investments in AOL and Clearwire by $726 million and $355 million, respectively. Factoring in that and some other charges, the company had net income of $1.62 billion, well over analyst expectations, with revenue excluding commissions rising 4.5 percent to $4.22 billion.

However, the numbers were not so kind to Microsoft. The software giant said its sales and earnings for the December quarter fell well below expectations and announced a series of cost-cutting moves, including its first-ever companywide layoffs. The software maker said it will cut up to 5,000 jobs, or 5 percent of its workforce, over the next 18 months. About 1,400 jobs were eliminated immediately. The software maker is also paring other expenses, such as delaying salary increases and cutting back on vendors and contractors.

Other key companies also reported negative earnings-related news:

• After reporting a 90 percent drop in net income for the fourth quarter, Intel said it will close chip plants to align its manufacturing capacity to current market conditions. Between 5,000 and 6,000 employees will be affected.

• Advanced Micro Devices reported a bigger-than-expected net loss of $1.4 billion for the fourth quarter of 2008, the chipmaker's ninth consecutive quarterly loss.

• Thanks in part to a strong dollar overseas, eBay reported a 7 percent revenue drop in the fourth quarter and weaker net profits.

• Wireless equipment maker Ericsson said it will cut 5,000 jobs after witnessing a 31 percent drop in fourth-quarter net profit year over year.

Security concerns
After weeks of debate, President Obama will be able to keep his beloved BlackBerry, making him the first U.S. president to use e-mail regularly. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that, thanks to a "compromise," his boss will be able to keep a security-enhanced BlackBerry and use it for e-mail.

One limitation of the BlackBerry, though, is that it does not appear to have been certified by the National Security Agency as secure enough for Top Secret voice communications. For that, there's the chunky, unwieldy, but built-to-military-specifications Sectera Edge, a combination PDA-phone that runs Windows Mobile.

In a statement that coincided with Obama's inauguration, Heartland Payment Systems, which processes payroll and credit card payments for more than 250,000 businesses, reported that consumer credit card data was exposed in what may be the largest security breach ever.

Robert H.B. Baldwin Jr., president and chief financial officer of Heartland, told CNET News he did not know how many credit and debit card accounts may have had their information exposed. The company handles 100 million transactions per month but does not know exactly how many unique cards or consumers that translates to.

Meanwhile, a Trojan horse has been discovered in pirated copies of Apple's iWork '09 productivity software that could allow an attacker to take control of the infected computer. The Trojan horse, OSX.Trojan.iServices.A, discovered circulating in copies of the software on BitTorrent trackers and other pirate sites, is rated serious, according to Intego's security alert.

When iWork is installed, the Trojan is installed as a start-up item as a part of iWorkServices. It has read-write-execute permissions for root control of the computer, Intego said. The malware connects to a remote server over the Internet and may download additional components to the infected computer.

Also of note
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected prosecutors' last-ditch defense of the Child Online Protection Act, meaning that the law will not be enforced...As the silver anniversary of Apple's Macintosh rolls around, CNET News look back at how the revolutionary computer has evolved and where it could go from here...The Washington Post launched Who Runs Gov, a site primarily made up of a database of personalities in the United States government.