Monthly Archives: November 2008

The short answer, from a fresh look at some of the evidence, is yes – but probably not as much as some of the Web boosters have been claiming.

A study of this year’s US primary campaign by the Fox School of Business at Temple University concludes that the internet has opened the political field to new entrants who would not have got a look in otherwise (the invaluable TechPresident points to this research today, and also supplies a password to access the research – “templeowls”.) The study also claims to find a correlation between ideas being promoted in the blogosphere and the results of opinion surveys, suggesting that bloggers help to shape broader public opinion. Read more

MediaPointA battle of the boxes began today between Blockbuster and Netflix, the principal online DVD rental services in the US.

Blockbuster announced its MediaPoint digital media player to serve movies to TVs over the internet. Its response to Netflix’s Roku box, launched six months ago, differs in some important respects. Read more

How much does spam cost? It’s hard to quantify in terms of bandwidth, time and effort blocking it, and general nuisance. But here’s a figure to mull over: $873m.

That’s how much Facebook has been awarded in damages against a spammer in a US court for sending unsolicited messages on the Facebook network. And if it sounds trivial in this era of multi-billion dollar bailouts, it’s a lot more than Facebook’s expected revenues for 2008 – more than double, in fact. Read more

Twitter’s $500m takeover talks with Facebook may baffle its non-users. While Twitter has a devoted community of millions, sceptics have dismissed its 140-character “micro-blog” posts as nothing more than Facebook’s existing status update feature. Both allow people to answer Twitter’s central question: What are you doing?

For Twitter’s co-founder, Biz Stone, the answer seems to be “quite a lot” towards making a greater distinction between a feature and a business. Read more

Google has made two very interesting moves this week. The first was to close Lively, the company’s version of Second Life. The second was to launch SearchWiki, or personalised search results.

On the surface, these don’t look related. Closing the virtual world Lively might look like a simple investment call, but Google hardly has to worry about cashflow. The company has many projects that on the surface don’t make a great deal of money. Read more

The Way We Live NextNokia, the world’s leading mobile handset maker, has been giving some mixed signals about its research direction of late, an area where it spent more than $8bn in 2007.

Bob Iannucci, its first non-Finn chief technology officer, stepped down at the end of September after only nine months in the job. He had been based in Palo Alto and was head of the Nokia Research Center there, from when it first opened two years ago. Read more

Depending how you define them, Finland’s Nokia is by far the largest supplier of smartphones.

But Nokia position in the business smartphone market has been constrained in the past because, unlike BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion, it lacked the tools to enable companies to directly connect their corporate email systems to Nokia devices. Read more

NXE AvatarsXbox users may be taking on a different personality with the launch of a new interface for the Microsoft game console.

Xbox Live’s 14m members are being urged to download the New Xbox Experience or NXE from Wednesday, which offers a 3-D interface and the chance to create your own avatar. Read more

steve-ballmer.jpgIt looks like the message finally got through.

Steve Ballmer has already said it more than once. For good measure, he said it again today in front of Microsoft’s own shareholders: “We are done with all acquisition discussions with Yahoo.” Read more balance serviceAs consumers watch what they spend more closely in these credit-squeezed times, services such as’s personal finance site could come into their own.

As a Mint user, I can see bar graphs of my monthly spending in particular categories. I can also compare my spending to that of other users in San Francisco, in California or the US as a whole. Read more

Cocoa PuffsTed McConnell’s 30 years within Procter & Gamble include three as a company futurist, so when the company’s general manager for interactive marketing and innovation questions Facebook’s merits for marketers, it is hard to dismiss as Luddite carping, writes Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson.

In a speech to a digital media conference in P&G’s home town of Cincinnati, McConnell said it was “predatory” and “arrogant” to “hijack” conversations on social networks. Read more

These days, €40m ($51m) is a big funding round for any company whose revenues are based entirely on advertising. Blyk provides free mobile calls to 200,000 British 16- to 24-year-olds in exchange for them receiving advertising messages, a membership it reached much faster than expected. Its response rates of 25 per cent have attracted 180 advertisers – but is even that enough to maintain revenues, with advertisers pulling budgets from even the most tried and tested of media?

Blyk’s fundraising – its third, coming from existing investors, who include Goldman Sachs and Sofinnova Partners – was accompanied by a “new media partnership strategy”. Blyk currently operates using a mobile virtual network, airtime bought wholesale from Orange in the UK and Vodafone in the Netherlands. But for further international expansion, Blyk’s co-founder and chief executive (and a former Nokia president), Pekka Ala-Pietila, says: “We don’t need to work purely on our own.” Read more

DevicescapeWi-fi can be a hard thing to figure out for a user on-the-go – all those networks, signal strengths, passwords and WEP encryption keys.

While popularising wi-fi with its Centrino chipsets for laptops, Intel did a pretty poor job with the software, in my opinion, making it impossible for me to log on to some networks from my corporate notebook. Read more

jerry-yang-yahoo.jpgAfter all the personal criticism he has taken in his 17 months as CEO, it’s worth remembering the reception Jerry Yang got when he was picked by Yahoo’s board to replace Terry Semel.

The assumption on Wall Street was that he would be a stop-gap boss, there to keep the seat warm until Sue Decker had done enough to prove she was up to running the show. According to people who know him, he was always happiest in the Chief Yahoo! role, where he could exercise significant behind-the-scenes influence (the relationship with Jack Ma of Alibaba owes much to Yang) while still getting the time to hone his impressive golf game. Read more

Bertrand CambouSpansion, the memory chip maker, embarked on a new litigious business model on Monday, but its moves against Samsung will not mean iPods being absent from retail shelves this Christmas.

The company said it was filing two separate patent infringement complaints in the US against the biggest memory chip maker, one in a Delaware court and the other with the International Trade Commission. Read more

Livescribe for MacLivescribe’s digital pen, the Pulse, is just the sort of gadget that should appeal to a Mac user.

It is innovative, comes with cool software that can search your handwriting and is aimed at an audience – college students – which is buying Macbooks hand over fist. Read more

Give One Get OneIt seems churlish to question the success using commercial criteria of One Laptop Per Child, when as a non-profit organisation it has done much to raise awareness of the possibilities and need for cheap computing power.

Getting the XO laptop into production and use around the world was an achievement in itself,  but government orders so far have been underwhelming. Only South America has responded in significant numbers, with 100,000+ orders coming from each of Colombia, Uruguay and Peru. Read more

Verismo The latest box to make internet content viewable on a TV is also the smallest.

 Verismo Networks’ VuNow fits in the palm of your hand and at 3.5″ x 4″ looks about half the size of Netflix’s Roku box, the SlingCatcher or Apple TVRead more

It’s understandable that companies should want to sugar the pill when they have bad news, but some pills simply can’t be sweetened.

Take Sun’s sweeping job cuts today (nearly a fifth of the workforce.) Asked what these cuts will actually mean – surely there will have to be severe retrenchment, or even closure, of some parts of the business? – Sun had this to say: it is “amplifying focus in geographic markets where there are growth opportunities.” Read more

Sling.comCable and satellite companies need to work out a way of bringing the web revolution to their TV services fast or face being trampled underfoot by internet innovators, according to executives at the intersection of broadcasting and the web.

Blake Krikorian, chief executive of Sling Media, told the New TeeVee Live conference in San Francisco that the living room was cable and satellite’s to lose. Read more