Hurricane Sandy and social media

Thousands of people in the Northeast turned to social network sites like Facebook and Twitter to relay information in the days after Hurricane Sandy’s arrival last week.

By daybreak Tuesday, after the storm had made landfall in New Jersey, the most-shared term on Facebook was “we are OK.”

Other weather-related terms such as “power,” “damage” and “trees” were among the most-shared posts that day, according to Facebook.

The governors of almost all the states where President Barack Obama declared federal emergencies used Twitter to provide residents and the media with storm updates and damage reports.

Social network sites have become an increasingly popular source for news, information and eyewitness reports during severe weather events. The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday even asked those in the path of the storm to avoid clogging landline and cellular telephone networks and instead use social media to contact others.

It is likely that social media will remain vital in the coming days to residents of areas hit by Sandy. The Federal Communications Commission said last week that about one-quarter of the mobile phone infrastructure in the Northeast was offline after the storm.

Tech giants face off on product announcements

Microsoft and Google revealed new portable computing devices on the same day last week, as tech companies continue to vie for consumer attention ahead of the holiday season.

Google on Monday announced a new smartphone, the Nexus 4 and two tablets — the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 — after canceling a press conference, set for that day in New York City, due to Hurricane Sandy.

The Nexus 4 smartphone features a 4.7-inch screen with wireless charging capability and an 8-megapixel camera for $299. It is available as an “unlocked” phone, meaning that it can be used on compatible networks such as AT&T or T-Mobile.

Google’s small Nexus 7 tablet, introduced in July, was updated to include a larger hard drive, while the new Nexus 10 sports a 10-inch screen, which Google says is sharper than Apple’s patented Retina Display technology.

Microsoft on Monday released Windows Phone 8, a mobile version of the new operating system it introduced for computers Oct. 26.

Like Windows 8, the phone version features tiles that can be manipulated to open programs or show data from the Web.

Devices with Windows Phone 8 software will be sold through most major carriers in the coming weeks, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said.

Disney to release new ‘Star Wars’ trilogy

The Force, it seems, is strong with Mickey Mouse.

The Walt Disney Company reported last week that it purchased Lucasfilm, the production house known best for the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” movie series.

In acquiring the company from filmmaker George Lucas, Disney CEO Bob Iger said it will produce “Star Wars: Episode VII,” with a release slated for 2015.

Two more “Star Wars” movies would follow every two to three years, Iger told investors on Wednesday.

Disney spent more than $4 billion to buy Lucasfilm, all the rights to its movies, as well as Industrial Light & Magic, a special effects company with a portfolio including the “Jurassic Park” series, “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Saving Private Ryan.”