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Monthly Archives: August 2007
There is an old kids’ riddle which goes:
Q. When is a door not a door?
A. When it’s ajar. Read more
A search engine for hot concert tickets and a social networking site for silver surfers are among 20 fledgling web businesses selected for a week-long entrepreneurship bootcamp that its founders hope will spawn Europe’s answer to Google.
Seedcamp, which starts on Monday, is billed as an intensive series of events, run by investors, entrepreneurs and experts in marketing, finance and human resources, aimed at equipping European high-technology start-ups with the skills to grow into multi-billion dollar companies.
Call it the winner’s curse. Facebook Platform – a service that allows outside developers to build applications that work on the Facebook social networking site – sparked huge interest when it launched this spring.
The service proved so popular that Facebook almost immediately began receiving complaints that some rogue opportunists were spamming users’ friends with application invites. Power users who installed many applications soon found that their Facebook news feeds – an important source of information about what is going on in their friend networks – were being flooded with application updates. Other users reported isolated cases of developers engaging in deceptive or misleading practices, such as tricking users into inviting friends to join a new application. Read more
The supposed Chinese bid to buy a US disk drive company gets more and more curious. It all started over the weekend, when the New York Times quoted Bill Watkins, ceo of Seagate, as saying that an approach had been made – though he wouldn’t say who had made it, or to whom. For good measure, he added that people were "freaking out" about this in Washington DC, since control of advanced disk drive technology could help the Chinese plunder US secrets.
Since Seagate and Western Digital are the only remaining US disk drive makers (IBM having sold out to Hitachi), and since it was Watkins making these comments in public, this seemed to point a finger directly at Western. Read more
New friend notifications on Facebook, weekly events newsletters, Twitter updates; the list goes on. As web-based services have come to permeate our lives, so too have automated email updates come to permeate our inboxes.
Such messages present a dilemma. They resemble spam in that we are bombarded with them daily. Subscribe to too many web services and you may soon find that such updates are clogging your inbox, just like spam. They are unlike spam, however, in that you actually want to read them, at some point – just not right now. Computer geeks now have a term for this kind of troublesome "non-spam spam": Bacn. As in, bacn is better than spam, but still clogs your inbox. Read more
Colleagues at our sister paper Financial Times Deutschland have unearthed some tantalising details about Apple’s iPhone distribution deals in Europe. FTD reports that T-Mobile of Germany, Orange of France and O2 of the UK have agreed to hand over 10 per cent of their iPhone service revenues to Apple in exchange for the honour of being the first European mobile networks to partner with Apple on the new mobile handset. Most industry watchers are fairly certain that Apple had struck a similar revenue-sharing deal with AT&T in the US, but today’s story marks the first time that a concrete number has been established.
Assuming that Apple’s 10 per cent cut applies not only in Europe but to its US AT&T deal as well, and further assuming an average monthly iPhone bill of $79.99 (that’s not including overages or roaming charges – which have proved substantial in some cases), Apple could be making an additional $95.88 per handset per year on service revenues on the iPhone. If Apple hits its goal of selling 10m iPhones by the end of 2008, that would mean an extra $950m in service revenues by the end of next year. Not half bad. Read more
There’s a natural cycle in the corporate tech business. Suppliers come up with the latest Big Idea. PR departments promote the heck out of it. Tech journalists, always on the lookout for some shiny new thing, rush to write about it. Sometimes, customers even buy it. Within a couple of years the spotlight moves on to the next Big Idea – and noone stops to ask too much about the ideas that flopped.
"Service-oriented architecture" has been climbing this hype curve for some time. Yet the platforms on which SOA are meant to be built – such as those from Oracle and SAP – are still years from completion. Early adoption rates are very low. This may end up being the new architecture of the software business, but somehow these things have a way of mutating. Few customers bet big on a whole new architecture. In time, the idea is revised and adapted, a new label is found. The PR departments come up with a different slogan. Read more
Watching the Web measurement companies trying to keep pace with changing audience habits on the internet is a bit like watching the credit rating agencies attempting to keep up with the latest trends in sub-prime mortgages: by the time the score-keepers work it out, the rest of the world has pretty much figured out what’s going on.
comScore’s latest stab at defining the internet search market is of interest nonetheless. It has changed its methodology to reflect the fact that many searches these days originate on affiliate sites, not the main search engines themselves, and that internet users often carry out different types of search for the same query by clicking on the "web", "images", "news" and other tabs – something known as "cross-channel search." It has also started to include results for search queries on "vertical" sites like eBay and Amazon. These are the highlights: Read more
A clever graduate student at Cal Tech has come up with a piece of software that reveals the locations of people who make anonymous edits of articles in Wikipedia. The results range from the bizzare to the downright shady. Wired’s Threat Level blog has a list of voter favourites.
Highlights include: Read more
It used to be called Vanity Publishing – releasing books that don’t sell enough copies to support the sort of print run a publisher needs to make a profit. But thanks to the "long tail" economics of the internet, and aided by Xerox’s latest print-on-demand technologies, there is now a race on to tap a part of the market that most publishers have long stayed clear of. Read more
Remember when investment banks stood accused of deliberately under-pricing tech IPOs so they could hand big windfall gains to their best institutional investor friends? It was to counter that sort of thing that Google opted for an auction when it went public three years ago this week. Read more
The leak of a few hundred lines of Facebook’s source code over the weekend caused a bit of a tempest as bloggers questioned whether the breach had compromised security at the popular social networking site. But beyond some red faces at Facebook HQ, the accidental disclosure – apparently the result of a mis-configured Apache server – is unlikely to do lasting harm.
This morning I spoke to Dave Marcus of McAfee Avert Labs, a web security outfit. Here’s what he had to say about the debacle: Read more
Motorola had been hoping to make a big splash tomorrow morning with the announcement that five US mobile carriers will launch customised versions of its flagship next generation Razr handset, the MotoRazr2.
But somehow the carriers, led by Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, lost the plot and broke the news embargo on Friday spoiling Motorola’s show – a pity because the struggling US handset maker has a lot riding on the success of the Razr2. Read more
It wasn’t that long ago that Darl McBride was the most hated man in the tech industry. Read more
First, the cold. Limelight Networks was meant to be the New Akamai, which made its June IPO one of the most anticipated of the year. Content delivery networks like this, which bring high levels of reliability to routing data across the internet, should be big beneficiaries of the growth of online video. They are also good barometers of the health of the broader online media industry.
If Limelight executives are to be believed, the rise of online video is turning out to be far from smooth. The company today gave a very downbeat revenue forecast for this quarter, in the process triggering a 35 per cent drop in its share price. Jeff Lunsford, chairman and chief executive officer, blamed it on seasonality: apparently demand for Web video drops off as the regular TV seasons end for the summer. He also pointed out that many online media businesses are still searching for a business model. The costs of delivering online video are soaring before the revenues start to come in, leading media companies to demand lower prices from companies like Limelight. Read more
Last night Google slipped out an interesting new experimental feature for Google News in the US. Most news sites have opened up their stories so that readers can comment: on Google News, however, it is only people who are actually written about in the stories who will be able to comment.
From Google’s blog post on the subject: Read more
Steve Jobs spent about an hour on Tuesday demonstrating some new software that will come bundled with Apple’s shiny new brushed aluminium iMacs. The most impressive, by far, was Apple’s re-vamped video editing software, iMovie.
The editing software allows users to upload home movies form a variety for formats for easy editing. It features a breakthrough method for scrolling through video called "skimming". Simply move your mouse across the thumbnail of a clip and it will play for you, right there, at faster-than-realtime speeds. It’s an innovation that is classic Apple – understated, seamless and practical. Read more
This is feeling more like the late-1990s all the time. Latest case in point: the proposed initial public offering of Accoona, an online electronics retailer that is in the process of building new businesses in search, comparison shopping and what it calls "online-based lead generation," while also venturing out into China.
The key phrase here is "in the process". As this regulatory filing shows, all but 2 per cent of the company’s revenues in the most recent quarter came from selling consumer electronics online – something it does far from profitably, given that its overall gross margin was a paltry 4.5 per cent. Add in other costs, and this was a company that lost $50m on revenues of under $150m last year. Read more