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A roundup of the latest high-tech news “Hot Off the Wire” from The Associated Press and Local Tech Wire:

• Starbucks to offer free Wi-Fi

CHICAGO — Starbucks Corp. will begin offering unlimited free Wi-Fi at all of its company-operated U.S. locations next month, part of an ongoing effort to bring more customers in the door.

The free wireless Internet will be available July 1 at about 6,700 locations.

The coffee house, which recorded its first quarterly increase in customers in 13 quarters earlier this year, had previously offered two free hours of Web access each day to registered customers.

After that, consumers at the Seattle chain were charged a small fee.

Access will continue to be offered through AT&T. But it won’t require a Starbucks loyalty card, according to the announcement Monday by CEO Howard Schultz, who spoke at a conference in New York.

The move comes six months after Starbucks’ competitor McDonald’s Corp. began offering free Wi-Fi at 11,500 U.S. locations.

Also Monday, Starbucks said customers will get free access to certain online content through its Wi-Fi this fall. Called the Starbucks Digital Network, the program will give Starbucks Web surfers free access to paid sites like the Wall Street Journal, along with exclusive content and free downloads from other organizations such as Apple Inc.’s iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA TODAY, Yahoo and Zagat.

• Credit Suisse raises earnings estimates on RIM

NEW YORK — A Credit Suisse analyst on Monday raised his earnings forecast for Research In Motion Ltd. (Nasdaq: RIMM)), the maker of the BlackBerry, saying sales of smart phones are rising faster than expected and RIM should be able to defend its market share.

Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha said he now expects 250 million smart phones to be sold globally next year, up from a previous estimate of 230 million.

RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, had 50.3 percent of the smart phone business in North America in 2009, down from 50.7 percent in 2008 but well ahead of No. 2 Apple Inc., according to market research firm Gartner Inc. Worldwide, RIM has 20 percent of the market. Garcha said he expects RIM to hang onto that 20 percent, with gains overseas compensating for declines in North America.

RIM is establishing a research and development center in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

As a result, he raised his earnings estimate for the fiscal year that ends in February to $5.74 per share from $5.70. He lifted his estimate for the following year to $6.50 per share from $6.35.

Garcha maintained an "Outperform" rating on the stock and a $100 price target. The shares look "inexpensive" compared to projected 2011 earnings and the company’s growth rate, Garcha wrote.

• News Corp makes bets on journalism ventures

NEW YORK — News Corp. is placing more bets on the future of electronic reading devices and the idea of charging readers for online content.

Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate says it is buying Skiff LLC, a company started by magazine and newspaper publisher Hearst Corp. to create a technology platform for e-readers.

News Corp. is also making an investment in Journalism Online LLC, which is developing technology to help publishers collect payments from readers for online material.
Financial details were not disclosed.

Both fledgling ventures are seeking ways to support journalism at a time when publishers are struggling to find ways to be as profitable online as they once were in print.