Monthly Archives: August 2008

The email has been flowing fast and lurid since I wrote a column earlier this week suggesting that the the software-as-a-service (Saas) business was unlikely ever to be as profitable as traditional software (in fact, one venture capitalist with a lot of experience in the field offered to send me to “reeducation camp.” Can’t wait.)

To recap briefly: I argued that subscription businesses where customers can switch suppliers easily tend to suffer from heavy churn and falling prices. It may be called “software”, but the economics of Saas have nothing to do with the old enterprise software business. Read more

MashYahoo has failed again to create a compelling social-networking service – announcing the closure of Mash on September 29.

Mash began as Mosh, but changed its name to avoid a clash with Nokia’s service of the same name. It began in beta on September 14 last year and has never been given a full launch. Read more

android-market.pngThe App Store has been billed as the secret weapon for the iPhone 3G, a source of third-party content and services that will eventually drive demand for the handsets far ahead of what Apple could achieve on its own (I say “eventually” because, for now, this looks as over-hyped as the launch of the Facebook platform more than a year ago: it is a very big idea, but many of the initial apps have been junk and have done little to prove the real power of the platform.)

So great is the long-term potential, in fact, that Apple’s rivals have been rushing to launch or dust off their own mobile storefronts. On Thursday it was Google’s turn, with an early look at its Android Market (the first Android handsets, from HTC, are due to go on sale from T-Mobile this autumn.) Many important details are still being kept under wraps, but it was at least possible to discern how Google plans to set itself apart from Apple. Read more

UbiquityThose nice people at Mozilla, the folk who brought you the Firefox browser, have introduced an empowering instant mash-up feature that anyone should be able to master.

Their Ubiquity application also makes the kind of command-line interfaces that went out with MS-DOS actually seem easy to use in their drop-down implementation. Read more

The buzz around femtocells – desktop boxes that boost indoor mobile phone coverage and route calls over a broadband connection – has helped RadioFrame Networks raise an additional $28m in debt and equity backing, bringing its total funding to over $100m.

RadioFrame, which was founded in 1999 mostly by McCaw engineers and executives who left the mobile network operator after it was acquired by AT&T, has spent the last few years designing a femtocell around its own silicon. As a result it expects to be able to sell its petite Omnicell@home device for less than $100 – much cheaper than most rival products. Read more

32-nanometer.jpgIntel failed at mobile phone chips before, so why should this time be any different? I got a chance to put that question to Intel CFO Stacey Smith at last week’s developer forum in San Francisco.

He had two answers. One was that Intel won’t make its push into smartphones until next year, by which time its new 32 nanometer technology will be in full swing. This should push the Atom processor (which will be hitting its stride in netbooks in the second half of this year) deeper into the high-volume, low-price mobile market: each wafer will be able to produce 2,400-2,500 die, or 400-500 per cent more than the existing technology, according to Smith. Read more

I’m always struck, when writing about Windows Vista, by how many PC users there are out there who immediately feel compelled to write in with their own strong feelings on the subject.

These generally fall into two categories: the XP die-hards who view Vista as an enhancement of dubious value they would happily do without, and the Windows detractors who have experienced all the circles of PC hell (it usually starts with a virus and ends in a decision to wipe the harddrive and start again, or a trip to the Apple store.) Read more

tv.jpgWith widgets popping up everywhere from Facebook to the Chumby, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to bring them to TV sets. Intel and Yahoo obliged today, announcing plans to use a Yahoo software platform and an Intel chip for set-top boxes to do just that (think little pop-up boxes on the TV screen that draw content from the internet to complement the shows you’re watching.)

Will this be any more successful than the many failed visions of TV/internet convergence that came before? Beats me. Yahoo should at least have a strong proposition for the TV industry: widgets would be a great way to drop relevant advertising into TV shows in a way that doesn’t intrude on the viewing experience, which is the biggest challenge they face. Read more

It is possible – probable, even -  that Apple’s latest iPhone software update was designed to address the bad reception and frequent dropped calls that have frustrated iPhone 3G customers over the past few weeks. But if so, Apple isn’t telling.

An Apple spokeswoman called me Tuesday morning to confirm what was already self-evident:  that yesterday afternoon, Apple had indeed launched an iPhone update. When asked for details, Apple would only say that the update was designed to “improve communication with 3G networks.” Read more

Apple has remained characteristically tight-lipped about the reception problems with its much-hyped 3G iPhone. Indeed, it has yet to even acknowledge that a problem exists – a fact that has provoked frustrated responses from some users on Apple’s own support forums. Could that be about to change?

We hear that Apple is close to releasing a software upgrade designed to ‘fix’ the issues contibuting to dropped calls and poor 3G reception on iPhone handsets. Our industry sources tell us that Apple is expected to launch the new software within “the next few days.” Read more

Catching a plane in the US? If you have the right sort of bag you no longer need to take your laptop out when it goes through the security scanner.

Our prediction: big delays as travellers get used to the TSA’s finicky rules about exactly when you can leave your laptop in the bag. There must, for instance, be “no metal snaps, zippers or buckles inside, underneath or on-top of the laptop-only section.” And remember: this only applies to the Butterfly, the Sleeve and the Trifold. Read more

Mountain View based Jajah describes itself rather grandly as “the world’s most innovative communications company.” With a little help from its friends at Intel, it may yet live up to the billing.

Intel Capital emerged as the lead investor in a $20m funding round for Jajah completed in May last year pumping in $15m to help Jajah in its bid to replace Skype as the mass-market VoIP provider of choice. Read more

the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly.jpgThe shoot-out at the OK Corral is over and the hired guns are leaving town.

Paulson & Co, once among Yahoo’s half-dozen biggest institutional shareholders and a backer of Carl Icahn’s attempt to pressure the company into a Microsoft deal this Spring, has sold most of its 3.7 per cent interest. In a filing today, the New York-based investor revealed that its stake had dropped to 15m shares at the end of June, from 50m three months before. Read more

The term “cyber warfare” conjures up images of coordinated military attacks mounted to cripple an enemy country’s vital infrastructure.

As the attacks on Georgian government and news Websites in the last few days show, however, the reality is much messier, and might not deserve the term “warfare” at all. It appears to represent an upwelling of antagonism on a broader front, coordinated across the internet to achieve maximum effect. Active government sponsorship is impossible to discern. All very Web 2.0, in fact. Read more

pandora.jpgIt seems a safe bet that most of the money made by iPhone application developers will come in the form of advertising. That is the overwhelming lesson from the PC-based internet.

So if Steve Jobs is right in saying that the marketplace for paid-for iPhone applications will eventually reach $1bn, how much bigger might the advertising market be? (Jobs’ prediction, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, is based on the $1m-a-day in sales the the new App Store has notched up in its first month, and why not? These are still very early days.) Read more

It would be a shame to allow the passing of former dotcom star i2 Technologies to go unheralded (it has just agreed to be bought by JDA Software for $346m.)

Remarkably, the maker of supply-chain software was once worth $50bn. These days B2B e-commerce companies induce a mild yawn, but there was a time when they set the pulses racing, and none more so than i2. Read more

yahoo-slide-on-behavioural-targetting.jpgWith its all-important search partnership with Google awaiting regulatory clearance, Yahoo really needs to keep its nose clean on Capitol Hill right now.

That’s probably one reason it has just pre-announced a new opt-out so that users of Yahoo services can request not to be on the receiving end of targeted advertising (it won’t actually go into effect until later this month.) Read more

Some readers took issue with my reference to Linux on PCs as DOA (though, I should add, very respectfully – these open-source types certainly know how to conduct a civil conversation.)

Yes, it was flip, I admit it. But let’s face it: enterprise customers haven’t bitten, and enterprise is the real focus of the latest IBM push. Read more

The integration of the Google and DoubleClick advertising systems continues apace, with no sign that Google is pausing to rethink DoubleClick audience-tracking techniques that it once held to be undesirable.

You might remember that when it agreed the acquisition last year Google said it would investigate ways to minimise the invasiveness of the cookies that DoubleClick plants on the computers of internet users who see the ads it serves. Read more

One of the great tech non-events of the last few years involves Linux on PCs. Every so often, another wave of hype washes in about how companies are finally going to ditch their Windows machines in favour of the open-source operating system and productivity apps like Sun’s StarOffice and (more recently) IBM’s Symphony.

I suppose you can’t blame IBM for trying to capitalise on the bad press of Windows Vista to try to give this story another spin. It has just agreed a deal with the three top Linux companies to distribute its own Notes and Symphony software alongside the operating system. The promise: a “turnkey” software package that, according to IBM, cuts 30 per cent or more from the cost of buying a new enterprise PC. Read more