Monthly Archives: May 2008

Dell netbookWhile Mac addicts have Steve Jobs and a new iPhone to look forward to at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco on June 9, PC fans can salivate over hundreds of new products to be unveiled at Computex in Taiwan next week.

“Computex is kind of the world’s number-one hardware geek fest,” Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president, told me before flying off for his opening keynote speech at the show. Read more

Barack ObamaGoogle may be among the top ten donors to Barack Obama’s presidential election campaign, but it has received around 10 times its contribution back from the Illinois senator in advertising on its properties in the first quarter.

Federal Election Commission data compiled by ClickZ‘s interactive marketing research network shows the Obama campaign spent $2.94m between January and March on Google ads. Read more

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Apple’s iPhone developers must be basking in the reflected glory right about now.

Google showed off its rival Android mobile user interface at its annual developer conference in San Francisco today. A flick of the finger scrolls between pages on the mobile browser or drags items around the screen – just like the iPhone. To enlarge elements on a web page to make them easier to view, Google introduces a small magnification pane that can be dragged around by touch. All very nice – though the interface lacked the classic simplicity of the iPhone and there was no talk of when Android-powered handsets will actually hit the market. Read more

max-levchin.jpg“This is the perfect time to start a company.”

At least that is what Max Levchin had to say when I dropped by to see him in Slide‘s SoMa office last week. But isn’t creating an internet company at the tail-end of the last start-up boom a disastrous idea? Read more

black-box.jpgGoogle understands that it has a big transparency problem. That much is clear from a blog posting today by Udi Manber, the engineer in charge of its search quality. The problem is, there is very little the company can do about it.

The problem stems from the “black box” nature of its search ranking algorithms. No one knows why some websites come out higher than others in response to certain queries, and the methodology is always changing. That creates headaches for anyone who relies to any significant degree on traffic from Google (i.e., just about every business on the Web.) Read more

Netflix player by RokuNetflix has taken a second step towards weaning its customers off the red-envelope delivery of their DVDs with its introduction of the Netflix Player by Roku.

The first step was its “instant watching” capability over a PC introduced in January last year. Subscribers could watch an hour’s worth of online video for every dollar they paid in their monthly subscription for at-home DVDs. Read more

Wii Fit launchNintendo has another hit on its hands judging by the sold-out signs on and for its Wii Balance Board accessory, released in the US on Monday.

The company’s big launch event for the $90 board, which resembles a set of bathroom scales, was a demonstration in New York’s Central Park where passers-by including businessmen (pictured) were invited to try a workout with the included Wii Fit softwareRead more

fireworks.jpgThere was a distinct lack of fireworks at the ”factory tour” that Google put on today to show off its search prowess. More than anything else, what came across (and what always comes across when Google engineers take the stage) is that making search work really well is difficult.

Most of the time was taken up with incremental improvements in two of the most promising areas: local search and “universal” search. These are not new, but they have the potential to greatly enhance the relevance and range of material returned by regular Web searches. Read more

FirefoxTabbed browsing, introduced in Mozilla’s original Firefox in 2004, has changed the surfing habits of a generation of users and the “Awesome Bar”, a feature in Firefox 3, could do the same.

Mozilla signalled it was close to a June launch for Version 3.0 on Monday, with the posting of Release Candidate 1, and Mike Schroepfer, head of engineering, and Mike Beltzner, director of user experience, gave us a demo of all the new features last week. Read more

marissa-mayer.jpgDown at the Googleplex in Mountain View this morning to hear Google’s Marissa Mayer (pictured) talk about the state of search.

You have to feel for Bill Gates and Kevin Johnson, the man with the unenviable job of trying to prove that Microsoft can at least play on the same field as Google. Gates is scheduled to present Microsoft’s latest advances in search this Wednesday at an event that the company has been touting heavily. Johnson, in an email to employees yesterday, promised big news: Read more

OK, so it’s an old story – around two years old, to be precise.

Still, you have to admit it’s interesting that Icahn wasn’t always as down on Yahoo’s management as he has been this week. At the time, he was putting pressure on Time Warner over its failure to do more with AOL, and pointing to Yahoo as a model of internet success. This is what he told the FT: Read more

music and moneyIt may seem a stretch from music to personal finance, but the team behind the MyStrands music recommendation service is now advising on the best way to spend or invest your money.

Strands, which has Spanish roots but has rebased itself in Oregon, has plenty of cash on hand to plan its own investments, having raised $29m last year, $24m coming from Spanish bank BBVA, and $65m in funding overall since it was founded in 2003. Read more

quincy-smith.jpgQuincy Smith has carved out a reputation as one of the leading digital visionaries among old media execs. Since joining CBS 18 months ago as head of digital efforts he has made a show of disdaining tired old Web 1.0 ideas in favour of Web 2.0 thinking (In a comment to the Wall Street Journal, he recently accused the video site Hulu of “arguing to be a premium destination in a time when nobody wants a destination.”)

This has not always made him popular in media circles. A senior figure at a big CBS rival I spoke to recently bristled at Smith’s apparent rejection of the traditional model that has typified the mass media business from the beginning: create your own destination (be it a TV network, newspaper or website) and attract as big an audience to it as you can. Read more

JawboneWhile Silicon Valley’s Apple and its iPhone may reign supreme in technology design, the Bay Area is home to several other stylish gadgets.

Oqo, set up by Apple renegades in San Francisco, invented the ultra mobile PC category in 2004 with its O1, which was succeeded by the O2 last year. Tivo, based in Alviso, and Sling Media, the Foster City developer of the Slingbox, have changed the way many people view television. Read more

referee.jpgCarl Icahn might well have a better chance of bringing Yahoo and Microsoft together than Steve Ballmer ever had of doing it on his own.

That’s the message the Yahoo stock price has been screaming. With the activist investor  mounting a proxy fight, Yahoo’s shares now actually stand higher than they did on several days when Microsoft was still pursuing its unsolicited bid. Read more

Fire EagleFire Eagle, Yahoo’s effort to broker location data for users and sites wanting to add where-in-the-world features, appears to be gaining traction, judging by a presentation at the Where 2.0 conference.

Tom Coates, leader of the project that launched the Fire Eagle beta two months ago at Yahoo’s experimental Brickhouse offices in San Francisco, gave a long list of sites now using or about to use the software Read more

Xbox 360 EliteMicrosoft has just announced a couple of Xbox milestones – 10m of its Xbox 360 game consoles sold in the US now and 12m members globally of its Xbox Live online service.

The company says the 360 is the first next-generation system to pass the 10m mark in the US. Read more

craig-newmark.jpgAnyone looking for juicy new details today about the in-fighting between craigslist and eBay would have been sorely disappointed.

As expected, craigslist countersued eBay after itself being sued for allegedly trying to reduce the influence that the internet giant has as a large shareholder of the classified advertising concern (we wrote about it earlier this week, here.) Read more


I’m blogging live from latitude 37.6 degrees North, longitude 122.4 degrees West, or roughly a mile south of San Francisco airport, location of the fourth annual Where 2.0 conference on the geospatial web. Read more

lake-woebegone.jpgThe venture capital industry may be stuffed with cash right now but that hasn’t stopped Lightspeed Venture Partners raising the biggest new fund of the year so far, at $800m.

When you ask where all this new money keeps coming from, Silicon Valley veterans have taken up a common refrain: the typical answer is “from overseas,” or “from Europe.” This is usually accompanied by a small involuntary smile that is meant to make you think: “Dumb Money” (at least, that is how it seemed at the National Venture Capital Association’s annual meeting in the Valley last week.) Read more