Monthly Archives: January 2008

Audible Amazon is looking more like Apple every day in the audio department.

It now has an iPod (its Kindle electronic book plays MP3s), iTunes (its MP3 beta service), downloadable video to rent or buy (Unbox) and now podcasts and audiobooks ( it just bought Audible for $300m). Read more

MySpace has confirmed that Josh Berman, COO, will leave the social networking site to take on a ‘senior role’ at Slingshot Labs, a new venture backed by News Corp, whose mission will be to incubate internet startups. Rumours of the move had been circulating since last week when Chris DeWolfe, the MySpace founder, told the New York Times about the incubator.

MySpace also said it would brief reporters next week on details of its bid to open up to outside developers. The FT revealed in June that MySpace that the popular social networking site hoped to take a page from Facebook, its smaller rival, by launching its own equivalent of the Facebook Platform. In November, MySpace announced that it had joined forces with Google on OpenSocial, an open alternative to Facebook’s platform.  Read more

Palm Desert, California: Exactly one year ago at the DEMO 2007 technology conference, Adobe showcased Adobe AIR (then code-named ‘Apollo.’)

While many software developers have been focused in recent years on ways to move desktop applications onto the Web, Adobe Air makes it possible to move internet applications to the desktop. Read more

Xtranormal_2 Palm Desert, California: Online video creation, distribution and analytics are becoming more sophisticated as the industry matures. A number of companies focused on video are launching products here at DEMO 08. The highlights:

Xtranormal, based in Montreal, Canada, introduced "movie-making in a box". It can turn an IM-like chat into a movie, attaching the text to a 3D avatar and using emoticon-type animation icons in the text to add movements. It’s an intuitive interface that should be easy enough for children to construct school projects and adults to make their own chat shows, business presentations or animated blogs. Users can add their own mugshots to the avatar to make it more realistic and their animation can take place in a range of sets. Xtranormal will likely sell additional packs of props and sets. The finished result can easily be published to a blog or social networking site. Xtranormal plans to launch in April. Read more

Bill Gates faced a fairly benign crowd at the Institute of Directors in  London on Wednesday morning where he made  his last UK speech  before his retirement.

But it was not without a few moments of controversy.  Read more

Demo_08 The Demo technology conference underway in Desert Springs, California always throws up a few standout start-ups – along with lots of ‘me-toos.’ Among the standouts this time around were a couple of communications start-ups with practical and interesting products and services that have the potential to disrupt.

My favourite was Toktumi (pronounced talk-to-me), whose product (also called Toktumi) provides small and home office businesses with a full-functioned PC-based office phone system at really low cost. Toktumi – described by one of my colleagues here as ‘Skype for grown-ups” – is actually a hosted PBX (private branch exchange) service running on the company’s servers in San Francisco. Read more

Blistlogolg Palm Desert, California: One of the themes of DEMO 08 is new web services that allow ordinary users to create content in forms usually left to the professionals.
Blist, Flypaper and Sprout showed how anyone could easily create databases, Flash presentations and widgets respectively.

Kevin Merritt, Blist chief executive, said mainstream users until now have tried to wedge all their data into an Excel spreadsheet. Blist in its list view looks like an Excel spreadsheet, with some columns you might not expect. Its impressively simple interface allows users to drag in columns such as star ratings, document links and pictures. Long lists can be included in single cells and icons can be inserted from drop-down boxes. There is the standard database record view and also a calendar view to show when tasks are due. Filters can be created just by dragging the relevant columns into a box and defining the criteria for them. Read more

Jerry_yang  If you’re an investor in Yahoo! you’re probably starting to wonder just when all the upheaval will end. Consider these comments from some of its executives in the years since the dotcom bubble burst:

2003: "We changed the whole sales team. We started all over again." (Former CEO Terry Semel) Read more

Demo_08_3 Palm Desert, California: Here at DEMO 08, we have two days of product launches by 77 companies unveiling new web tools and services, hardware, software and the latest in consumer electronics.

Products like the Roomba vacuum cleaner and Pleo the robot dinosaur were introduced at DEMO and the room here is packed with media and venture capitalists watching six-minute demos of the next big ideas. Read more

Radeon_3870_2 Graphics chipmakers are fond of making a case these days that their graphics processing units (GPUs) are becoming as important or more so than the central processing units (CPUs) of the PC microprocessor makers.

As bigger displays in high-definition dazzle consumers, most of the horsepower that drives them comes from the GPU. Read more

Glenn_henry_president_centaur_tec_4 Intel, which has been engaged in a battle royal with Advanced Micro Devices over whose chips go in high-end servers, is beginning to encounter a similar level of competition from a smaller rival at the other end of the scale.

VIA, based in Taiwan, is often forgotten as a player in the dominant "x86" market for PC microprocessors. It has never had more than 5 per cent market-share and is normally in the 1 to 2 per cent range, with Intel taking around 80 per cent and AMD the rest. Read more

Seeqpod SeeqPod, the music search engine that we wrote about in September, has finally incurred the wrath of the record companies.

The Bay Area start-up is considering its legal position after Warner Music Group filed a suit in a Los Angeles court alleging copyright infringement. Read more

Cash_money One of the most striking things to emerge from Apple’s quarterly results on Tuesday was the fact that the iPod and iPhone maker is sitting on an $18bn cash hoard. Even more interesting is what Apple suggested it might do with it. Fortune picked up these comments by Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO, during the company’s earnings call:

Our preference continues to be to maintain a strong balance sheet in order to preserve our flexibility to make strategic investments [and/or] acquisitions. Read more

Piracy_2 The entertainment industry thinks it has found a new opening in its fight against online piracy and is working hard to make it count. Read more

The biggest film studios have access to libraries of tens of thousands of films and TV titles, but most of them never see the light of day. That is because only a handful of those titles account for the vast bulk of DVD sales. Retailers have little incentive to stock the thousands of less popular titles that make up the rest of studios’ libraries, since it would force them to carry costly and slow-moving inventory. 

HP estimates that there may be $1.5bn-$2bn of untapped opportunity lurking in this long tail of library content. But that could change under a new partnership between HP and Sony, set to be announced on Thursday. Under the partnership, HP will offer content from Sony, manufactured on demand for DVD retailers and wholesalers. The idea is to use HP’s digital technologies to change the economics of DVD distribution.   Read more

Meg_whitman  So it’s official, Meg Whitman is to leave after 10 remarkable years (sullied by some mishaps of late.) As Youssef Squali, an analyst at Jefferies, puts it: "She will be remembered as one of the best CEOs of the dotcom [period], who made it successfully through the bubble and the nuclear winter."

This also means a broader reshuffle. Rajiv Dutta may have been passed over for the top job (see note below) but he’s clearly been made John Donahoe’s number two with the new title of executive vice president and Donahoe’s old job of running the marketplace division. One-time contender Bill Cobb is out, and will retire from the company at the end of the year. Read more

If Meg Whitman does indeed decide to hang up her gavel (reported here in the Wall Street Journal, but yet to be confirmed), who will be left running a company that accounts for some 15 per cent of all global ecommerce?

The eBay chief has had various stabs at nurturing home-grown talent and has reached outside at various times to bring in extra firepower. As succession planning goes, it hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride. This is how it has played out: Read more

Battlefieldheroes The growing interest of traditional video game publishers in casual games looks like creating new hybrid formats and experimental business models.

Electronic Arts has announced its first completely free title, Battlefield Heroes, available for download this summer. Read more

Calista_logo For evidence of how seriously Microsoft is starting to take the market for virtualisation software, take a look at its acquisition today of Calista Technologies. This is a company that was launched as recently as 2006. It has raised only one round of venture capital (around $7m) and it has yet to ship any products.

Yet Calista got prominent billing today as Microsoft put some of the pieces in place for its attack on a market that represents both huge potential and a sizeable threat for its server and desktop businesses. No price for Calista was disclosed but when we spoke to Barry Eggers of Lightspeed Ventures, one of the company’s backers, he left no doubt that Microsoft is paying up in its efforts to catch up with VMWare (latest profile here): Read more

You could forgive Kevin Harvey of Benchmark Capital if he sounded a little smug when I spoke to him earlier today about the eye-catching $1bn sale of MySQL. A longtime venture investor in open source companies, Harvey has had to put up with a few knocks along the way. As he put it:

When we first invested in Red Hat it was thought to be totally insane. When we funded MySQL it was only partly insane. Read more