5 things to watch for in Obama vs. Romney sequel

Ready for Round Two? President Obama and Mitt Romney square off Tuesday night in their second debate, this time answering questions posed by undecided voters.

The town hall-style debate will be held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. Moderator Candy Crowley of CNN will select the questions from the 80-member audience, who were picked in advance by Gallup.

USA TODAY will have full coverage on all of its platforms. Check your local listings on where to catch the action, starting at 9 p.m. ET. Our guide to the five things to watch:

A second chance for Obama: The president said he was too polite in his first face-to-face meeting with Romney, who got a boost in public opinion polls because of his strong debate performance two weeks ago. Obama's advisers promise he will be "aggressive" and "energetic." But if Obama swings too hard in challenging Romney's assertions, will he come off like a bully?

The wind at Romney's back: The Republican's team says the momentum belongs to Romney after the Oct. 3 debate in Denver. Romney has been practicing the same way he did for the Denver debate, by focusing on what he wants to do if elected and why the time is right for America to change course. Can he build on the gains he has already made?

The challenge of speaking directly to voters: The people posing the questions want to be persuaded, which means Obama and Romney have to be engaging, empathetic, believable, likable and presidential -- sometimes all at the same time. It's a danger to appear disengaged, as George H.W. Bush did when he looked at his watch in the 1992 town hall debate. Or to get in your opponent's face, as Al Gore did in 2000 when he walked right up to George W. Bush.

Apple iPhone 4, 4S prices slashed in India again

In an unprecedented move, Apple India has slashed the prices of iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S within a week of lowering their retail prices, say media reports. Industry sources have stated that an Apple spokesperson confirmed the second price cut of the last two iPhones. Moreover, the spokesperson also said iPhone 3GS has been discontinued in India, just like in the global market.

After the recent price cut, the 8GB model of Apple iPhone 4 will cost Rs 26,500, whereas the 16GB variant of Apple iPhone 4S will be retailed at Rs 38,500. During the price revision of last week, the prices of iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S were Rs 28,300 and Rs 41,500.

The Apple spokesperson also said the company will retail its smartphones through Ingram Micro and Redington in India now onwards, as reported previously. The former will be responsible for distributing the iPhones for large format retails, while the latter will sell the same via regional channels. This is a shift in gears from its earlier strategy of distributing iPhones via Aircel and Airtel, who bundled it with their own data and call packages.

This means that many cellular operators in India will keep nano sim cards in stock, which are only used in iPhone 5.

Apple is expected to launch iPhone 5, the fastest selling smartphone ever, in India on October 26. It was earlier reported that the 16GB variant of iPhone 5 will cost around Rs 46,000 to 48,000 in India, while the 32GB model is expected to be rolled out at Rs 51,000 and Rs 53,000. The price of the top end 64GB variant of the latest iPhone is expected to range from Rs 58,000 and Rs 61,000.

Maruti's new Alto gets 10K pre-orders

India's largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India today launched the new Maruti Alto in petrol and CNG options priced between Rs 2.44 lakh to Rs 3.56 lakh.

The petrol variant of the new Alto has been priced at Rs 2.44 lakh and would go up to Rs 2.99 lakh and promises a fuel efficiency of 22.74 kmpl.

While, the CNG variant has been priced at Rs 3.19 lakh to Rs 3.56 lakh with a fuel efficiency of 30.46 km/kg.

"We have started the booking for this new Alto since late September and before the launch we have received over 10,000 bookings," Maruti Suzuki India Managing Director and CEO Shinzo Nakanishi told reporters here.

Nakanishi further said that: "Around 200 engineers from Suzuki Motor Corporation and Maruti Suzuki were jointly involved in development of this vehicle for over four years".

The Alto was first launched in September 2000 and has registered sales of over 2 million units so far.

The price of the existing alto (petrol) ranges between Rs 2.49 and 3 lakh while the CNG variant is priced in the range of Rs 2.97 to RS 3.48 lakh.

Obama’s second chance

By Eugene Robinson,

First, he has to show up. Then, in his second debate with Mitt Romney, President Obama needs to offer not just history lessons and dire warnings but also a hopeful vision for the next four years.

It would be hard for Obama to turn in a worse performance Tuesday night at Hofstra University than he did at the first debate in Denver. All he has to do is show a little energy and enthusiasm, and the next morning’s headlines will surely be full of “comeback” metaphors. But that’s not enough.

Obama’s passivity in the first debate was so striking, and so surprising, that it overshadowed all the other ways in which the president failed. Romney came with a story to tell — a fraudulent story, to be sure, since it so contradicted the tale he told during the Republican primaries, but a well-crafted story nonetheless. Obama came, apparently, with a handsome necktie.

Romney now seeks to portray himself as an unthreateningly moderate technocrat, as opposed to the “severely conservative” ideologue we met earlier this year. One of Obama’s more easily achievable goals Tuesday night should be to remind voters — and perhaps Romney himself, who seems to forget — of previous Romney positions such as “self-deportation” for undocumented immigrants.

In the first debate, Romney’s worst moment was when he tried, and failed, to explain how he would cut income tax rates by 20 percent without adding a penny to the deficit. Obama tried to note the inconsistency, but Romney bulled his way through by simply insisting that up was, in fact, down. “Strong and wrong” shouldn’t trump “weak and right,” but in a debate it often does. I’d suggest the president think about perhaps raising his voice every once in a while, especially when Romney says things that cannot possibly be true.

I’d also suggest that the president prepare — and practice, in front of an audience or at least a mirror — his closing statement. Wrong approach: “I said that I’m not a perfect man and I wouldn’t be a perfect president.” Right approach: anything else.

And please, no looking down at the podium, even to take notes. If necessary, aides should confiscate any writing implements before the president takes the stage. He can look at Romney, at the moderator, at the audience, at the camera — anywhere but down.

Body language is important. Millions of Americans are proud of the accomplishments of the Obama administration. The president should look as if he is, too.

These are relatively easy fixes. The bigger and more important task is demonstrating to Americans they will have a brighter future with Obama in the White House for four more years.

This was Obama’s biggest failure of the first debate — or rather, Romney’s biggest success. Romney promised to lead the nation to a Valhalla of jobs and prosperity. It was a cynical, empty promise because he offers nothing more than a repackaging of the trickle-down policies that have brought us to this parlous state. But Romney was forceful, hopeful and optimistic, and my reading of the post-debate polls is that substantial numbers of undecided voters were impressed.

It’s necessary — but not enough — for Obama to call him on this deceit. Obama also needs to make his own promises to the American people. And unlike Romney’s, they can even be genuine.

In Denver, Obama pledged to fight for the middle class. That’s an admirable sentiment, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Obama needs to explain how the policies he has implemented, and those he plans to pursue, will make our lives better.

Under his administration, the economy has created more than 4 million private-sector jobs. The nation has taken a huge step toward universal health insurance, and soon will come a day when Americans don’t face bankruptcy just because they become ill. We are more sensibly exploiting our reserves of oil and natural gas while actively seeking to develop the energy sources of the future. We’re engaged in an ambitious program of nation-building here at home — in education and infrastructure, especially — to ensure that we enjoy another American Century.

Romney’s real success in the first debate was to look past the challenges the nation faces and focus on the opportunities he sees ahead. Obama has to do more than explain why Romney’s vision is a mirage. The president has to tell us what he sees on the horizon and why that’s the direction we must go.

Microsoft turns on new Xbox music service

New Xbox Music service brings streaming, subscription and music store to Xbox 360 and Windows 8 PCs, tablets and phones with cloud-based storage.

 October 15. 2012 - Microsoft is pushing the play button on a new music initiative to take on iTunes and streaming services, such as Spotify.

Under the umbrella of Xbox Music, Microsoft will launch a streaming service, that is free on Windows 8 PCs and tablets, a music subscription service and a pay-as-you-go music store that sells individual tracks and albums.
Microsoft's music play coincides with the Oct. 26 launch of its Windows 8 operating system for computers and Windows RT for tablets and the arrival of new Windows phones later this fall.
As the service expands over the coming weeks — from the Xbox 360 to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 — its cloud-based connectivity will allow access to playlists and music collections across devices. "We went from saying, 'Let's not do a device-specific thing, (to) let's really create an all-in-one solution," says Jerry Johnson, Microsoft's general manager for Xbox Music.
Despite Microsoft's attempts with its Zune devices and music player and, before that, MSN Music, Apple remains dominant in digital music sales. In the second quarter of 2012, Apple accounted for 64% of digital music sales, according to market research firm NPD Group. Apple also sells nearly one-third (29%) of all music, digital or physical. While Amazon commands 16% of the digital market, Microsoft and others, including Google Play, had market shares of 5% or lower, NPD says.
Digital music sales are expected to increase 10% this year, NPD estimates, while interest in streaming and on-demand music is on the rise.
ITunes, Internet radio services such as Pandora, and on-demand music purveyors such as Spotify all are "strong players," says Johnson, but none represents a one-stop musical shop. Integration of music across Windows devices, he says, "really solves a consumer problem that exists out there."
When Xbox Music hits the Xbox 360 video game console Tuesday as part of an overall system update, users can apply for a free 30-day trial of Xbox Music Pass (after that it's $9.99 monthly). That will give them access to on-demand streaming playback of a library of 18 million songs in the U.S. That's comparable to streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio and MOG, which top out at about 18 million.
Owners of computers and tablets upgraded to Windows 8 – and new Windows 8 device purchasers – will have an ad-supported free Xbox Music streaming on-demand program on board. Upgrading to the $9.99 monthly service allows ad-free streaming across devices and offline play.
Playlists and music bought through the new Xbox Music store, which launches on PCs and tablets Oct. 26 (tracks cost 99 cents to $1.29), are also stored in a cloud-based music locker. The store will also be found on new Windows phones.
Also hitting that day (Oct. 26) is Microsoft's Smartglass app that lets you move music from Windows computers, tablets and phones to the Xbox 360 to see on the TV and hear on a home stereo. The tablet then offers a second screen experience with artist information, art, photos, lyrics and related artists. Microsoft plans to develop music apps for iOS and Android devices, too.
Establishing Xbox as its entertainment brand is a good move for Microsoft because in the past "it has been all over the place," says Michael Gartenberg of tech research firm Gartner.
The free streaming service that appears on Windows 8 computers and tablets is "a way for Microsoft to break into the music market in a way that consumers understand," he says. "Once you have someone using the service, you have a better chance of getting them into the subscription services and buying music from there. This looks like a pretty complete and thought-out service that encompasses the entire Microsoft ecosystem."


Polls: Obama, Romney in tight race

 October 15. 2012 - Another poll, another close result between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

Obama leads by a single point -- 49%-48% -- in the latest Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll released Monday morning, well within the margin of error.

On the other hand, Romney leads 50%-48% in the poll's 10 top "battleground states:" Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll gives Obama a 49%-46% lead among likely voters.

Various polls also show a tossup race in the Electoral College.

Obama once led most polls, but things have tightened in recent days for one major reason: The first debate on Oct. 3, perceived by many as a Romney victory.

Obama and Romney debate again Tuesday night in New York, and a third time a week from tonight in Boca Raton, Fla.

Some other highlights of the Politico-GWU Battleground Poll:

-- Of the 86% of voters who watched the first presidential debate, three in four declared Romney the winner; only 16% thought Obama prevailed.

-- Romney leads with independents by 8 points, 49%-41%.

-- Obama still leads with women, 54%-43%.

-- Regardless of whom they're supporting, only 53% of voters now believe Obama will win the election (down from 61% before the first presidential debate).