Monthly Archives: March 2008

gears.jpgGoogle’s anti-Microsoft strategy continues to unfold. Today brings news that its online Docs applications will soon step beyond the Web and onto the desktop. (This is accomplished with the Google Gears browser plug-in, which lets you access internet applications while offline by using the hard drive as a cache – a company representative offered to “whitelist” me so I can start using it today, but the less privileged among you will have to wait until this feature becomes generally available over “the next few weeks.”)

Google likes to cloak its new product features in uplifting rhetoric: the company only looks to delight its users, it isn’t motivated by the sort of competitive strategy that other companies employ, and so on. But the evolution of Docs has always looked like a very deliberate plan hatched with its Redmond rival in mind. Read more

Triple-core processorThe maths for guessing the future of computer processing power is no longer “Think of a number and then double it.”

It should be getting easier in this multi-core world. We’ve gone from single brains to two brains and now quad-core microprocessors, so eight should be next, right? Read more

click.jpg So the fall-off in paid clicks on Google wasn’t a one-month phenomenon. The comScore report a month ago that the number of clicks on the search engine’s adverts had fallen slightly in January from a year before touched off fears that the Great Google Slowdown had set in. It didn’t matter that comScore itself later argued that quality improvements in Google’s ad system could account for the decline: the seeds of doubt had been sown.

The latest figures show that this was not an isolated phenomenon. The research firm now says that Google’s paid clicks in the US edged up by 3.1 per cent in February, which is at least better than the 0.3 per cent decline the month before. But this still represents a major deceleration from the 25 per cent increase in the fourth quarter of last year, and with search queries still growing strongly it points to a big change in the way searchers respond to adverts. Read more

clouds.jpgThere’s an interesting new twist today to’s ambitious “computer-in-the-cloud” plan. From now on, companies which rely on the etailer to run aspects of their computing for them can choose where those tasks get handled.

This raises interesting legal implications. For instance, Amazon now says customers can select whether they want their computing to take place in a datacenter in the US or in Europe. So anyone concerned about the snooping eyes of Uncle Sam (think Patriot Act) might prefer to go off-shore. Read more

MytopiaInteroperability between different social networks should not only empower users but also boost widget makers who can aggregate their audiences and increase revenues.
Mytopia, launching today as a “social gaming community”, is a case in point.

It allows users to come onto its network and play games with one another whether they are within Facebook, MySpace or Bebo. Users of Apple Dashboard Widgets, iGoogle Gadgets, Microsoft Vista Toolbar Widgets and Yahoo Widgets can also join in. Read more

wireless-tower.jpg Despite what you may read, Google and other internet companies didn’t really get everything they wanted from the US spectrum auction that just ended - in fact, in many ways the status quo remains exactly what it was.

The auction “winners” were announced today (that word is in inverted commas because only time will tell whether they got a good deal or overpaid.) Google shareholders were at least able to breathe a sigh of relief that it was Verizon Wireless, not the search company, that had paid $4.74bn for the all-important C Block of spectrum. That is the block that the FCC, after cajoling by Google, subjected to “open access” provisions. Read more

Phorm logoAny company hoping to launch targeted advertising services should be watching the fate of UK start-up Phorm with great interest. In particular, they should take note of what this says about the public’s double standards on privacy.

Phorm is trying to build a new ad platform, serving ads targeted around users’ internet habits and interests. It is hoping to make this acceptable to the general public with reassurances that no personally identifiable information is kept or stored as part of the process. Read more

Harvard hearing courtesy Free PressNo one should be nodding off when the Federal Communications Commission holds a hearing at Stanford University next month into “broadband network management practices.”

Comcast can expect to hear some strong criticisms of its “practices” from technologists and Web activists in the heart of Silicon Valley with the FCC just announcing that a second “field hearing” is needed on the subject. Read more

michael-arrington.jpg Michael Arrington of TechCrunch fame still dreams that blogging will eventually produce a media business capable of dwarfing even tech news giant CNET in size (that was also on his mind when I spoke to him 18 months ago.) These days, though, Arrington has a new plan: a “dream team” of star bloggers that would bring together the biggest talents – and egos – in the blogosphere.

His pitch today for this Uber-Bloggers’ Cooperative sounds a bit of a stretch. The most interesting thing about it, in fact, is what it says about Arrington’s thoughts on how to catch up with CNET: maybe it’s not as easy as just starting a handful of blogs and trying to raise hell after all. Read more

ipod_classic_fam.jpgNews that Apple is in talks with record labels about a possible ‘all-you-can-eat’ model for iTunes is making the rounds on the blogs this morning following last night’s story in the FT.

Over at TechCrunch, Erick Schonfeld asks whether music companies would be willing to go along with a subscription model. We think the answer is clearly yes. Read more

Facebook’s users are bound to be excited by news that the social network is planning to roll out its own chat service in the coming weeks; Facebook developers, perhaps not so much.

There are dozens of developers offering chat applications designed to run on the Facebook platform. Facebook’s decision to get into the chat business for itself means those developers will now have to grapple with an 800 lb gorilla in the room, sucking up all the air Read more

vista-sp1.jpg  More than a year after the launch of Windows Vista, the first big upgrade is at hand (there’s no official word yet from Microsoft, but is offering the new, improved version for shipment tomorrow.)

Microsoft must be hoping the arrival of Service Pack 1 will mark a turning-point for one of its most troubled big software releases. After years of delay and a redesign that stripped some of the original core features out of the operating system, Windows Vista finally arrived with a slick “glass” interface and a whole bundle of glitchesRead more

flash.jpg When Macromedia first tried to charge mobile phone companies for the privilege of carrying its Flash player for viewing video, even its own executives were surprised by their success. After all, the PC version of the player had always been free. That helped to attract a large number of eyeballs to the player, which in turn meant the company could sell software to creative types who wanted to produce content in Flash (that is the same business model behind Acrobat, the free PDF document reader supplied by Adobe, which went on to buy Macromedia.) Surprise, surprise: it turned out that mobile companies were actually prepared to pay for the player as well.

So when Steve Jobs bad-mouthed mobile Flash earlier this month it sounded very much like a heavy-handed attempt at public negotiation. The current version of the software is not up to scratch yet and won’t be appearing on the iPhone, according to the Apple boss (as my colleague Chris Nuttall wrote here last week, the lack of Flash is one reason third-party developers are sounding luke-warn about their new ability to write applications for the iPhone.) When I spoke to Gary Kovacs, Adobe’s vice president of mobile products, at the end of last week he was tight-lipped about relations with Apple but still managed to hint heavily that this was really about price rather than technical competence: negotiations with Apple are ongoing. Read more

iPhone SDKAfter the acclamation, for Apple opening up its iPhone to outside applications, comes the anxiety.

Developers were expressing concern today at what they saw as a poorly-worded email from Apple that could be read as suggesting many were being left out of the iPhone developer programme for the foreseeable future. Read more

Gibson patent diagramYou’ve probably heard of Guitar Hero, the best selling game from Activision that puts a guitar-shaped peripheral in gamers’ hands and lets them play along to well known rock songs.

Guitar Hero has surpassed $1bn in retail sales in North America, sold 16m units worldwide, enlivened countless parties and prompted Guitar Hero nights comparable to karaoke ones in clubs and bars across America. Read more

platform.jpg Steve Ballmer has a certain inimitable style (I use the term loosely.) This recapitulation of his famous “monkey dance”, delivered last week on a stage in Las Vegas, has Microsoft insiders squirming, but at least it makes a point. The software company now has its sights set on building a technology platform for Web developers, not just the software developers commemorated in Ballmer’s original 2001 outburst.

Google has a quieter way of doing these things, but make no mistake: there is a fight brewing here for hearts and minds. This battle will determine which vision wins out for the next stage in the internet’s evolution as a computing platform. Read more

Tim Armstrong Google appears to be confirming – at least unofficially - Wall Street’s fear that its advertising is not recession-proof after all. This is Tim Armstrong, head of advertising in the US, when asked at a Bear Stearns conference today how search advertising performs in an economic slowdown:

“It does reflect the macroeconomic environment… From a macroeconomic viewpoint, people do search what’s on their mind and what they’re thinking about” (Translation: if they’re tightening their belts, they’ll probably do fewer searches for the latest hot gadgets.)

 Read more

Nick Carr has been wondering whether Microsoft is about to embark on some “vast data center push” that will advance it much faster down the road towards cloud computing.

Not so, says Ray Ozzie. When I spoke to him last week, Microsoft’s chief software architect was nothing if not ambitious (one day, he said, “most major enterprises and many, many, many independent developers will be running their services in our datacentres” - this is the report of the conversation.) But this is what he had to say about the pace at which those datacentres will get built: Read more

ZivityThe investors in San Francisco start-up Zivity would prefer to think they are funding the next wave of social networking rather than an online peepshow.

Zivity, which serves up photo-shoots of scantily clad and tastefully nude women for subscribers paying $10 a month, is announcing its second-round funding today and has raised $7m from some prominent venture capitalists. Read more

Intel AtomLife begins at 40 goes the saying and Intel yesterday outlined a new life for itself as it celebrates its 40th birthday on July 16th this year.

From mid-year, the company expects to be making major strides with its Silverthorne microprocessor, now branded AtomRead more