May 2007


top_google_generic.jpgMOUNTAIN VIEW, California (Reuters) — Google Inc. said on Wednesday it is combining its different Web search services into one “Universal Search” service that will present Web sites, news, video and other results on one page.

The move, a significant overhaul of Google’s most-used function, will take effect on Wednesday and be improved over time, executives told reporters at the company’s “Googleplex” headquarters.

“I think of it as a pretty natural evolution, with the one interesting thing being the video side of it,” said Martin Pyykkonen, an analyst with Global Crown Capital.

“The thing everyone is wondering right now is what will an advertiser be willing to pay for a video link,” Pyykkonen said. “From the advertiser standpoint, I think they will be interested in how to hook their customer better.”

Universal Search means that standard Google searches will draw results from separate properties covering books, local information, images, news, and video, said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search and user experience.

“It’s breaking down the silos of information that have been built up. It’s a broad, long-term vision that will unfold over the next few years,” Mayer said. “We are really excited about what Universal Search could evolve to in the future.”

The combined search includes any site indexed by Google’s services. On the video side, for example, it will include YouTube, Google Video and independent sites like Metacafe.com.

Mayer did not directly discuss advertising plans, but she indicated the new service could open the door to more relevant ads on search result pages, which accounted for roughly half of the $10.6 billion in revenue Google did last year.

“For us, ads are (search) answers as well. I would hope that we can bring some of these same advances, in terms of richness of media, to ads,” Mayer said.

In addition, the company is introducing new navigation features at the top of every Google page that let users to quickly hop between its different properties.

For example, users of Google’s e-mail service, Gmail, can jump instantly to search, calendar, documents, and other services, according to a demonstration at the briefing.

The company also is preparing a translation service that converts queries into other languages, allowing a user to comb a broader swath of the Web, Google’s Vice President of Engineering, Udi Manber, said at the event.

The technique will translate queries in any of a dozen languages into English, find additional search results, then automatically translate those back into the language of the original query. This will give users in any supported language a broader view of information on the Web.

“That by itself will open the whole Web to different languages,” Manber said.

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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top_spider-man_game.jpg(CNN) — With the video game version of “Spider-Man 3” and its theatrical counterpart hitting the United States on Friday, we’re not just seeing the continuation of a hugely successful movie franchise.

We’re seeing the continuation of a video game franchise that’s hugely successful in its own right.

“As popular as ‘Spider-Man’ is in the movie world, he’s as popular in the video game world,” says Bryan Intihar, Previews Editor for the video game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly.

Activision’s video game versions of the last two “Spider-Man” movies have grossed a staggering $462 million in the United States, according to market research firm NPD.

That’s almost $100 million more than what the “Spider-Man 2” movie took in at the box office.

Usually, Intihar points out, you only see video game legends like “Grand Theft Auto” or “Halo” pulling those kinds of numbers.

The “Spider-Man” games have won commercial and critical kudos for their mostly faithful re-creations of the movies, and for a unique “open environment” that allows players to fight bad guys and swing through a dizzyingly accurate virtual recreation of Manhattan.

Activision’s Neven Dravinski also credits the cooperation his “Spider-Man 3” team received from the movie’s director, studio and stars (most of the film’s cast, including, Tobey McGuire, do voice work for the game).

Dravinski says early in the film’s production the gamemakers were able to see storyboards and initial special effects shots from some of the “Spider-Man 3” film’s more memorable action sequences, including Peter Parker’s nighttime aerial battle with the Green Goblin and Spider-Man’s subway confrontation with Sandman. (Watch “Spider-Man 3: The Game” merge movie, video game Video)

Both sequences are featured in the game.

“Thankfully,” Dravinski says, “we were able to see a lot of these sequences early and get a sense of what [the filmmakers] were doing.”

The new “Spider-Man 3” game includes enhanced powers and new combat moves for Spidey; a bigger and more lifelike rendering of Manhattan; and storylines that diverge from the movie, including Spidey’s battles against three elaborate street gangs that threaten to take over parts of New York (think “Spider-Man” meets “The Warriors”).

Sure, the “Spider-Man” games can never match the popular action shooters for edge-of-your seat, pulse-pounding thrills (Spidey’s gaming appeal has always been more “Wee!” than “Wow!”).

But their re-creations of some well-loved movies, and of one well-loved character, may be what set them apart.

Still bleary-eyed after having unveiled the game at “Spider-Man 3” movie premieres in London, England, and Japan, Activision’s Dravinski brightens at the memory of the reception the game got from fans. “At every premiere, I was the most popular guy because every kid, and every 40-year-old kid, would be like: ‘Oh, my God — Spider-Man!’ ”

It’s that kind of international enthusiasm that makes for successful video game franchises.

t1_relatives2_ap.jpg(CNN) — Searchers in Cameroon on Saturday were working to track down a missing Nairobi-bound Kenya Airways flight reported to have gone down in a forested area southwest of the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde.

African media reports say Kenya Airways Flight KQ 507 — which was carrying 115 crew and passengers — crashed near Yaounde.

One local government officer, Alex Bayeck, said villagers reported hearing a “large boom.”

“Searchers have gone out looking in this area,” including police, emergency workers and military police, he told The Associated Press. The region has few roads and is dotted by small villages.

There was no word yet on survivors, Bayeck said as he traveled to the crash site.

But Titus Naikuni, the company’s chief executive officer, refused to describe the incident as a crash. He told reporters that “at the moment you can’t make a clear statement until you see the aircraft itself.”

The plane took off from the Cameroonian city of Douala bound for Nairobi, Kenya and was scheduled to arrive in the Kenyan capital about 6 a.m., the airline said. There were reports of thunderstorms in the area around the time of takeoff overnight.

An airline official said the last message from the aircraft was an automatic distress signal received soon after takeoff from Douala airport. The plane was just six months old, the airline said.

People from 25 different countries were on aboard. They included one American, five Britons, one Swiss, one Swede, six Chinese, and 15 Indians. The remainder were Africans, including at least 35 from Cameroon and at least nine from Kenya, according to airline figures.

The Associated Press is reporting that Anthony Mitchell, a Nairobi-based AP correspondent, “was believed” to be on the flight.

Relatives waiting at Nairobi’s airport were distraught as news reports about the missing plane came in. Dozens of family members cried and collapsed in the airport terminal.

One person there said families there had received no information. “I cannot talk now because there is no news,” he told AP, declining to give his name. “We have not been given any information.”

Cameroon’s military sent helicopters from Douala airport to the believed crash site, AP reported.

Kenyans are sending a delegation to Cameroon, and Naikuni said the United States was helping authorities track the flight location. Naikuni said the location is about 100 kilometers, or more than 60 miles, southwest of Yaounde.

A Kenya Airways flight crashed seven years ago, on January 30, 2000, when a Nairobi-bound flight took off from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The airline is considered one of the safest in Africa.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.