Monthly Archives: March 2009

Given the attention it received when it was launched (including from us), the demise of Wikia Search should not go unnoted.

This was the attempt by Jimmy Wales (of Wikipedia fame) to bring a more transparent crowd-sourced approach to internet search. Wales’ complaint was that the “black boxes” of the big search engines are undesirable in the long term: as people come to depend more on search, they deserve a chance to look under the covers at how results are arrived at, and to help influence the rankings. Read more

It’s one of the great conceits of Silicon Valley that the best companies are created in the darkest times.

Google, which is launching its own venture capital fund this morning, is the latest to pay lip service to the idea. This is from the blog post announcing the fund:

If anything, we think the current downturn is an ideal time to invest in nascent companies that have the chance to be the “next big thing”, and we’ll be working hard to find them.”

Google itself, of course, does not fit this picture. It is a baby of the boom times: set up in 1998, in the midst of the dotcom frenzy, and raising its first $25m in venture capital in mid-1999, which was close to the peak of the mother of all venture capital cycles. Read more

The Web 2.0 Expo exposed itself for its third year in San Francisco today.

The 2009 theme is the “Power of Less”, which sounds like a clever spin on lean times for the industry. Read more

Pat Gelsinger tagged his Monday blog post “awesome”, although he was probably referring to the Xeon 5500 server processor, formerly known as Nehalem, rather than his own prose.

The head of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group also used the word “spectacular” several times during his presentation at the launch of the 5500 at Intel headquarters. It was Intel’s best ever piece of engineering, he said, and the most important server product since the Pentium Pro in 1995. Read more

  • Skype is expanding its push into mobile with the release of its iPhone application. The move is unlikely to threaten major telecom carriers, but may better position Skype for an eventual sale from parent company eBay.
  • Even as TV and print advertising shrunk during the recession, internet advertising remained strong in 2008, topping $23bn. Search remained the dominant form of online advertising, but spending on video, while still a small piece of the pie, more than doubled to $734m.

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The sight of Microsoft apparently prevailing in patent litigation against a Linux-based software application is bound to send a frisson of fear and loathing through the open source world.

So it was today, with news that a case brought last month against TomTom had been resolved. The Dutch-based navigation maker has agreed to make payments to Microsoft to end a claim that it breached eight patents, while also over the next two years removing functionality from its products related to two of the patents.

TomTom’s devices run on Linux, so the Microsoft lawsuit was seen as a deliberate, if sideways, attack on the open source operating system. Read more

Microsoft has hardly embraced Apple’s iPhone platform, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t thought about making money from it.

To date, it has only contributed a couple of programs to the App Store – the Seadragon image viewer and barcode Tag Reader, both of them free. Read more

Visiting the local GameStop on San Francisco’s Powell Street has aspects of going to a pawn shop and an under-the-counter porn store rather than the expected video-game retail experience.

Every wall of the store seems covered in second-hand titles traded in by gamers, new shrink-wrapped ones are hard to spot. Anyone wanting a brand new game generally needs to go and ask for it at the counter. Staff then look underneath or go in the back to try to locate the rare item. Read more

Google has boosted its console cred with gamers and pushed itself as a platform for developers with an announcement of new gaming features at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

In a launch event on the fringes of GDC, Google introduced new gaming design themes for its iGoogle personalised home page and demonstrated how it could rival Facebook and other social networks as a casual gaming platform. Read more

24-7 Entertainment

The digital music industry went into “shuffle” mode again on Wednesday, when Metro, the German retailer, said its Media-Saturn unit had acquired a controlling stake in 24-7 Entertainment, a UK-based distributor of digital music. Digital music, like social networking sites and internet operations, are being subsumed into more traditional businesses.

24-7 is a rival to Apple’s iTunes, and runs 41 download stores in 13 countries, including running the music stores for mobile operators like TDC of Denmark and supporting Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow service. Read more

Nintendo’s Wii, clear leader in the next-generation console race, has just passed another major milestone.

Satoru Iwata, Nintendo president, told the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today that global shipments had now passed 50m, making it the fastest selling hardware in video game history. Read more


Privacy activists have had a busy few weeks. First there was Google’s announcement that it would start using behavioural targeting for its display advertising, which had them up in arms. The following week Google launched Street View, the controversial 3D mapping feature, in the UK, again drawing protest. The latest concern is over revelations that the UKgovernment is thinking of monitoring social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo as part of its anti-terrorism measures.


There is already an EU directive on monitoring emails and internet usage, requiring internet service providers to store traffic data for 12 months. Since the July 2005 the UK government has been keen to broaden the scope of the ways it can monitor for terrorists. This latest proposal is to extend this to social networking sites, which have become hugely popular after the proposals were first formulated.

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There are signs the mobile payments market is really taking off at last with Nokia announcing a substantial investment in service provider Obopay today.

The amount, understood to be in the region of $70m, is being put in by Nokia itself rather than its venture arm and gives it a minority stake in the Silicon Valley company. Read more

As a near total black-out of YouTube in China moves well into its second day, the feeling must be growing in Mountain View that Google is just not welcome in the Middle Kingdom.

If this is censorship, then it looks very heavy-handed. Unlike previous cases of YouTube censorship, which have often involved selectively blocking offending videos, this one is sweeping. Read more

The launch of OnLive at GDC this week could force console makers to confront the future of their products much sooner than they would have liked.

It had already seemed likely that the current console cycle would be extended – TV is not going to improve on existing HD standards for some time and 3D effects can already be simulated, so there is little threat of obsolescence for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Read more

The secret is out.

OnLive, a potentially revolutionary video game service that calls into question the future of consoles, has been unintentionally revealed to the public. Read more