It has been a week of regulatory decisions on internet privacy issues.
The UK’s Office of the Information Commissioner has given the go-ahead for Phorm, the targeted advertising company to start trials with BT. While the ICO statement of this is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the service, it doesn’t raise any insurmountable concerns. Phorm is still under close scrutiny, but for now, allowed to go ahead.
Well, soon you can. The announcement last night of Google’s App Engine (currently in closed trial) is symbolically important: until now Google has been a vertically integrated company, building one of the world’s most powerful computing networks in order to deliver its own search and other services. Like Amazon before it, Google now says it will make that massive computing resource available to other businesses that want to run their software on its servers and access it as a service over the internet.
Once again, Google has beaten Microsoft to the punch (though to be fair, this is still only a very low-key trial, and what’s being played here is a very long-term game.) Microsoft has promised to reveal more about its own “cloud computing” platform this year, with much expected at an October developers’ conference in Los Angeles.
The video game publisher THQ must be feeling a little like WALL.E, the robot title character in the next Pixar game it plans to release in sync with the animated movie this June.
WALL.E is left behind on earth to clear up the trash after all the humans have left, just as THQ faces a solitary future after the galactic mergers of Activision with Vivendi and potentially Electronic Arts with Take-Two.
I just got back from a free coffee and conversation across the road in Union Square, here in San Francisco, with coComment, the blog comment aggregator.
The service was handing out free cappuccinos encased in coComment coffee sleeves with phrases to complete such as “If I could name my own presidential candidate it would be…”
Microsoft and Yahoo continue to circle each other like wrestlers, each waiting for the other to show its weakness before getting into a clinch. At a time like this, just about anything either side says is pure rhetoric.
That is the best interpretation of today’s report that Microsoft is ”evaluating” its bid in the light of deteriorating market conditions. This is a thinly-disguised version of the Larry Ellison treatment: soften up the target by cutting the value of a takeover offer (something Ellison did while Oracle stalked PeopleSoft) or at least threatening to (his treatment of BEA Systems.)
Not got around to upgrading to Windows Vista yet? In that case you might want to delay a bit longer: it looks like the next version, Windows 7, is coming sooner than we thought.
That reaction is exactly what Microsoft is afraid of - and why it has been scrambling today to stamp on the suggestion that unlike Vista, which arrived years late, 7 (codenamed Blackcomb, after a Canadian ski resort) may actually arrive early.
Intel designed its Classmate PC to help schoolchildren in its emerging markets, but its second-generation model, unveiled in Shanghai today, represents a shift in strategy.
Classmate 2 recognises the success of Asus’s eee machine in attracting the broader consumer market in both emerging and developed worlds to small, cheap laptops.
Drinking, gambling and… searching?
It seems the list of proscribed activities for the younger set is longer than you thought. A sharp-eyed blogger at CNET spotted last week that Google’s official terms of service explicitly bar anyone under the age of 18 from using any of its services. That’s right: no hanging out on Orkut, no peeping at YouTube, and definitely no searching for someone else’s homework to cut and paste.
Googlers are in high demand. Doug Merrill, head of internal systems, has just moved over to EMI (while it’s tempting, after a recent senior departure or two, to start talking about a brain drain, the Google talent-magnet is still exerting Silicon Valley’s strongest pull.)
But how hard should other companies try to lure away Google talent? A prominent Silicon Valley headhunter I spoke to this week offered a contrarian view: that Google is like Microsoft in the 1990s, or IBM in the 1980s. It is so dominant in a particular market that it can’t help making money. That has created what this headhunter describes as a “Google bubble.”
The betting among those who have been tracking Microsoft’s pursuit of international standards recognition for its Open Office XML formats (the voting by national standards bodies closed at the weekend) is that the software company will emerge victorious.
If correct, this is a significant breakthrough for Microsoft. To have lost would have handed a huge victory to the IBM-backed Open Document Format. The blessing of the ISO, on the other hand, would serve to further cement the de-facto standard that already exists around Office.