Monthly Archives: September 2008

Several European consumer groups have talked of attacking Apple’s “closed” music system over the past two years: it looks like the first challenge is now at hand.

Nero LiquidTVThe deal Tivo has struck with Nero to bring its DVR interface and software to the PC sounds like a logical step for a service that has been stuck in a box under the television.

But freeing Tivo from the confines of the living room makes less sense when everyone else – Apple, Netflix, Amazon etc -  seems to be heading the opposite way towards that prime location. Read more

Smallest billboardsLos Angeles is the biggest canvas for the art of the billboard, but the latest kind being deployed by Sony would not make much of an impact at Sunset and Vine.

To promote its forthcoming game LittleBIGPlanet, Sony has been planting probably the smallest billboards in the world all over LA, under palm trees and in public parks, and actually not minding if someone picks one up and takes it home. Read more

anna-eshoo.jpgAnother sign the Yahoo/Google pact is on a razor’s edge: a group of 11 House Democrats from California has written to attorney general Michael Mukasey pleading with him not to block the advertising partnership. They’re led by Anna Eshoo (pictured), whose Silicon Valley district encompasses the HQs of both companies. Extract:

“The competitive and disruptive nature of the Internet makes it extraordinarily difficult for any company to dominate. The rapid growth of the market and the increased potential in this space invites more and more competition.” Read more

This week’s official outbreak of the Mobile Broadband Wars (see my colleague Chris Nuttall’s description of the rival WiMAX and GSM initiatives to be announced in the next couple of days) has not come soon enough for many consumers.

Demand for high-speed mobile access has already become a big source of new business for Orange, according to Olaf Swantee, head of the French group’s mobile division. I caught up with Swantee when he was in San Francisco last week, and this seemed to be just about the brightest spot for his business right now. One in eight customers signing up for a new Orange account is doing so by buying a laptop computer in one of the company’s stores along with a broadband “dongle”, he said. Read more

You have to hand it to Google’s founders: having vowed when they took the company public to make the world a better place, Sergey Brin and Larry Page are not afraid to wrestle with the social implications, even if it takes them in territory that corporate executives generally shun (for good reason – it’s not always wise to take a public stance on something that will antagonise at least part of the workforce.)

Sergey Brin admits in a company blog post that the November ballot proposal in California to ban gay marriage is an “unlikely question” for Google to take a public position. He goes on: Read more

WiMAXA major skirmish in the battle over competing mobile broadband technologies is set for next week with launch announcements for WiMAX and HSPA.

Dan Hesse, Sprint chief executive, and Sean Maloney, executive vice president of Intel, will be in Baltimore, Maryland for the launch in that city of the first US WiMAX network. Read more

LivemochaSocial networking can provide the most value when it comes to receiving advice and problem-solving, whether it be someone responding to a Twitter question or checking out a user’s restaurant review on Yelp.

Increasingly, sites are depending on the wisdom of their users to build their businesses, from CrossLoop’s IT support to Trusera and PatientsLikeMe’s health advice and statistics. Read more

Plenty of bad blood has been stirred up by Microsoft’s heavy (and pretty effective) lobbying against the Yahoo/Google advertising alliance. The Yahoo/Google camp complains that Microsoft’s influence has been behind much of the chatter (both in the media and among trade associations representing advertisers and publishers) questioning whether the deal should be allowed to go ahead.

This just sounds like sour grapes. Microsoft tried to whip up a campaign like this against the Google/DoubleClick deal as well, but that effort singularly failed. There was simply no wider groundswell of anxiety about that deal. This time it’s different, and if Yahoo/Google hope to win the battle for hearts and minds they will have to do a much better job of explaining their case. Read more

It looks like Digg is getting serious about beating back some of the competition that has begun to crop up in the social news space. Yesterday, the company that pioneered the user-driven approach to news announced its third funding round, a $28.7bn $28.7m haul led by Highland Capital Partners of nearby Silicon Valley.

The move will double Digg’s coffers, allowing it to double its staff, move to a new headquarters, and expand overseas. Four years after its launch, Digg remains one of the most popular news sites on the web. But its vote-based method for deciding which stories to display on its pages has spread far and wide, with some big media names – most notably Yahoo, with its Yahoo Buzz site - getting in on the act. Read more

AptWhile Jerry Yang may feel he has achieved Nirvana today, some of the chief executive’s fellow Yahoos may soon be reaching a nadir.

Mr Yang made a presentation at Advertising Week in New York, giving an official launch to Apt, the renamed Amp online advertising platform, with the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News becoming the first to deploy it. Read more

michaeldellMichael Dell was in London yesterday, and held a Q&A with a group of journalists. And I must admit that although he came across as very likeable, his ability to avoid answering questions (well, the ones he didn’t want to answer) was superb.

Example 1:  Read more

TrionVC money ought to be hard to come by in these credit-crunched times, but games industry start-ups still seem to be scoring big.

Trion World Network announced $70m in third-round funding  on Tuesday, after Big Fish Games landed an $83m round earlier this month. Read more

Time is running out for the internet companies to decide if they want to plough on regardless or put their deal on hold, possibly for good (as we explained here.) Today comes a white paper from the American Antitrust Institute calling on the companies to give an undertaking about their future behaviour before the deal is cleared:

The government should insist on a consent decree which preserves Yahoo’s incentives to remain in the paid search market. If such a consent decree cannot be achieved, then the government should seek an injunction to prevent Google and Yahoo from implementing their agreement.

My colleague Paul Taylor will be writing a fuller hands-on review of the first Android phone, T-Mobile’s G1. For now, though, here are some initial thoughts from the press conference to unveil the phone, which has just ended in New York:

- The G1 looks like a playground for Google services, though T-Mobile has suppressed the Google brand in some cases. For instance, click on an address in the address book and go straight to a Google map. Click again, and see a Google Street View. If you pull down a separate Window and start a chat with a friend the familiar Google “Talk” bubble appears on the screen. In none of these cases, though, does the Google name itself appear. Read more

ooxml-documentation.jpgTo most people, the setting of technology standards sounds like an arcane and generally dull pursuit best left to the experts. But tech companies have long realised that influencing the standard-setting process can bring huge competitive advantage: getting your technology preference adopted by the world at large brings immediate home-field advantage.

Which is why the new row that IBM is trying hard to whip up over international standards is so important. Read more

htc-dream.jpgWill Android turn out to be a dud for Google?

That question has been percolating ever since November, when the mobile software plan was unveiled. It didn’t help that the early Android developer tools got a thumbs down from one of the key groups Google was hoping to win over with its “open” platform. With launch delays this year, the suspicion has been growing that this was a half-baked response to one of Google’s most pressing needs (to promote the use of mobile advertising) rather than a carefully thought through strategy for a new mobile internet platform. Read more

ollonian spicemill by dananddnaWhile Spore, the evolution game from Electronic Arts, gives players the freedom of the galaxy, it has been accused of imprisoning them with restrictive digital rights management when they install it.

A protest campaign on, where more than 2,500 reviewers have given Spore one star out of five, appears to have borne fruit. Read more

Yahoo homeYahoo has put much emphasis on it being the “starting point” for the internet and has been revamping its home page this week to boost that strategy.

But Yahoo’s content is dependent on delivery through browsers and how users configure them, and the latest versions of these appear to erode the notion of a home or start page. Read more

ie8ad1.JPGMicrosoft knows it has a real fight on its hands this time. That is the only conclusion to draw from its highly unusual decision to start advertising downloads of IE8, even though the software is still in beta (the banner on the left was just spotted on Valleywag, leading to this landing page.)

That puts the beta IE8 up against the beta Chrome in an early battle for the hearts and minds of an influential group: the technology crowd for whom any internet service past beta is already starting to feel old hat. Read more