Monthly Archives: July 2007

Richard Waters

Washington_post_logo Hyper-local is the new buzzword in the news business. As the battle for attention gets more relentless, this is the ultimate front line: the place where you fight for one reader (and one local advertiser) at a time with the information that is most personally relevant.

The Washington Post’s online salvo in this market (the experimental Loudonextra.com, launched today) offers possible answers to two of the questions that dog Old Media as it turns its attention to this business. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Surfer2 With only around 30 major companies attending rather than 400, and 3,000 attendees rather than 60,000, this year’s E3 video games convention was more for suits than surfers.

Gone was the overpowering music, crowds, booth babes and Hollywood sets of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Robbie_bach Price cut, what price cut? says Robbie Bach, head of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division, about Sony’s $100 reduction in the cost of its 60Gb PlayStation 3 console to $499 this week.

Sony also introduced a $599 80Gb version and had earlier dropped the weak-selling $499 20Gb version from the US market.  Read more

Chris Nuttall

Kaz_hiraiSanta Monica: Sony is a little puzzled at all the plaudits Nintendo is receiving at E3 for its family-friendly gaming.

Wasn’t it Sony who earlier introduced the EyeToy and a range of games that depended on body movements rather than controller buttons? There have been karaoke, fitness and dancing games to play and the PlayStation3 controller has more motion sensitivity built in than the Wiimote. Read more

Chris Nuttall

IwatamiiSanta Monica: When Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, took to the stage at the E3 video games summit this week he talked about cookery, vision training exercises, brain teasers, word games and lifestyle coaching.

The latest Super Mario and Legend of Zelda adventures were left to others to demonstrate. The 47-year-old Nintendo chief is focusing on the non-gamers as his company leads the way in expanding the market with titles for its DS portable and Wii console aimed at nine year olds to 95-year-olds. Read more

Mure Dickie

China’s policy of blocking overseas websites has been noted here on more than one occasion, but it still comes as a surprise to find that FT Tech Blog itself appears to have become a victim of the government’s shadowy censors.

In recent days it has not been possible to access this part of the ft.com website from Beijing and Shanghai, with page requests just timing out – the usual symptom of a blocked site. The blog loads fine if accessed through an offshore proxy site designed to evade the censor. And a quick check on the block-checker site greatfirewallofchina.org  (see picture) also suggests we have been blacklisted. Read more

Chris Nuttall

John_riccitiello Santa Monica: John Riccitiello says returning to Electronic Arts as chief executive was the only job offer he considered seriously in his three years in private equity with Silicon Valley’s Elevation Partners.

While with Elevation, he oversaw a major investment that brought together developers Bioware and Pandemic Studios and he carried out due diligence on a number of other video game companies. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Bigbuttonpad The video game industry is growing its arsenal of family-friendly controllers as it tries to expand beyond hard-core gamers.

Nintendo has widened the demographic with its motion-sensing Wii controller. It said today that 1 in 3 gamers using its products this year were women, compared to 1 in 5 for the industry as a whole. The proportion of gamers that are over 25 and playing Nintendo games was up from 14 per cent in 2005 to 23 per cent in 2007. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Santa_monica Santa Monica: The world’s biggest video games convention may have been scaled down this year and transferred to this seaside suburb of Los Angeles, but it is still no end-of-the-pier show.

The industry’s leading executives are all here at the E3 Media and Business Summit, including Robbie Bach, head of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division, Kaz Hirai, president of Sony Computer Entertainment and Satoru Iwata, president and chief executive of Nintendo. Read more

Richard Waters

Sock_puppet_2 Two further signs of just how far the lure of social networking is prompting venture capitalists to loosen the purse strings:

Ning, Marc Andreessen’s social networking platform, has just raised $44m from mutual fund group Legg Mason and others (are mutual fund companies getting into social networking now?) Andreessen had been following the low-key style favoured by the early Web 2.0 crowd but has now decided the time has come to push the pedal to the metal.

According to this note on his blog, Andreessen had been staying "lean and focused" but now it’s time for phase two: scaling up the platform, investing in new features and "platform evangelism and support programs." Just in case you thought that meant Andreesen is ready to swing for the fences, dotcom-style, he adds that in other respects "we plan on staying as lean and focused as we possibly can." Hm.

Meanwhile Bay Partners, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, says it wants to invest money in companies that are writing applications to run on the Facebook platform. The social networking site’s platform strategy has been one of the Valley’s favourite talking points since it was officially launched in May. First it was hailed as an end-run around MySpace, a way to draw more innovation, and eventually users, to the underdog network. That was followed by an inevitable, if rather rapid, backlash as the tech blogs started to question whether Facebook’s platform is all it’s cracked up to be (we blogged about what the blogs were saying here.)

In reality, it’s too early to assess the Facebook strategy because (a) it’s not clear what the business model for the apps will be and (b) how big a slice of the cake Facebook will want to keep for itself when/if the dollars start to flow. Interesting, though, that Bay Partners wants to invest $25,000-250,000 in apps to run on the network, no business model required – only "reasonable theories about monetisation."

Not that this gets us back to the Sock Puppet days quite yet. Still, it’s another step along the road.

 Read more

Chris Nuttall

Jajah_iphone So what if you don’t want to use the iPhone as a phone?

A perverse notion perhaps, until you add up the cost of the minimum $60 a month voice and data plan that is provided by AT&T. Read more

Richard Waters

Constant_contact Small, loss-making tech companies with under $30m in revenues were not meant to find their way to Wall Street anymore.

Heavy-handed regulation imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and greater caution on the part of investors who had had their fingers burnt before had supposedly closed off the option of an IPO. Any internet start-up worth its salt could expect instead to find itself swallowed whole by Google, Microsoft or IBM. Silicon Valley has been working on the rule-of-thumb assumption that a company needs at least $100m in revenues, and some experience of operating at a profit, before contemplating a public listing. Read more

Richard Waters

Reporters I admit it – as journalists go I’m pretty old-school. A telephone and a typewriter are good enough for me (OK, maybe you can throw in Google as well.) Reid Hoffman, boss of LinkedIn, is always telling me what a great tool his social networking site is for making contacts and digging out information but, well, somehow I could never quite bring myself to network that way. Let’s face it: you wouldn’t have found Deep Throat plastering comments over Woodward and Bernstein’s Facebook wall.

This is a cautionary tale about what happens when old-school journalism meets Web 2.0. (Confession: it hurts to be as transparent as this, but sometimes you just have to let the readers in on a few trade secrets.) Read more

Richard Waters

Remember those rumours about Google getting into the handset business with its own mobile phone? The arrival of the iPhone should have finally put paid to that kind of talk – Google couldn’t dream of out-doing Apple, and is right to focus instead on trying to be the killer app (the maps and YouTube features on the iPhone are surprisingly effective.)

Google’s phone strategy goes deeper than this, though, and could eventually put it in conflict with its new ally. Today brings confirmation of the reports that it has acquired GrandCentral Communications, a private company whose software is designed to simplify communications across multiple devices. Among the features: a single voicemail box that links your home, work and mobile phones, and a single number that can reach you wherever you are. Some of its features, like sending you an email when you get a voicemail message, sound very close to the sort of things Apple is doing with the iPhone. Read more

01largecashmoneyWhen we headed down to the Apple store last week ahead of the iPhone launch, we found a substantial number of punters who were hoping to flip their newly-purchased iPhones for a substantial premium on Ebay. Sorry to take the wind out of your sails, guys, but data released today by Ebay indicate that the secondary iPhone market may not be as vibrant as some people predicted.

Just over 3,770 iPhones had changed hands on Ebay as of 3:45pm on Monday, at an average price of $701.98. A further 5,483 were listed for sale. Assuming that most of the iPhones sold were 8GB models (a Piper Jaffray note this weekend said 95 per cent of customers were walking out with 8GB models), that’s a premium of just $100 or so over the purchase price, and that’s not even including tax. That’s hardly a great return, especially when factoring in the opportuity cost of taking time off work to wait in line for hours, or, in some cases, overnight.   Read more

Chris Nuttall

Iphonetyping So my second impressions of my iphone are about the same as my first.

- Typed on my Blackberry handheld.

A my awxpms impresiima of my iPhone we sour rw saw amy diats. Read more