Monthly Archives: May 2009

The forthcoming Windows 7 will be a big test of Microsoft’s ability to segment the market for the operating system and persuade more users to pay up for higher-end versions.

So it isn’t a good sign for the company (though it is a good sign for consumers) if Microsoft is forced to add more capabilities to cheaper versions of the software. Read more

Has anyone laid claim to the email address yet?

The company refuses to comment, but as the NYT is reporting, and we have confirmed, Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s director of public policy and government affairs, is moving to the White House as deputy chief technology officer.

He won’t be involved in policy decisions on the sort of issues he’s been advocating on behalf of Google. But along with boss Aneesh Chopra, McLaughlin will play an important role in government procurement of technology. Read more

OK, so Mike Arrington went a bit over the top yesterday in declaring Google Wave “one of the most ambitious and exciting products the tech world has seen in a long while.”

And you have to bear in mind, as Rob Koplowitz at Forrester warns, that any time Google claims to have “reinvented” something it gets the rest of us talking, even if it’s often hard to assess the eventual impact of projects like this (at least it balanced Microsoft’s claim the same day of having reinvented search.)

Still, there was something charmingly excessive about the idea of sending a team of hot-shot developers to Australia for a couple of years to work on a secret project, then jetting them to San Francisco for an 80-minute demo in front of 4,000 eager developers (YouTube video here.) Lars Rasmussen’s rock-star status as creator of Google Maps had already guaranteed him an easy ride in front of this crowd.

In reality, like a lot of these things, Wave is both more and less than it seems. Read more

The FT’s Lex column considers the spin-off of AOL from Time Warner. The separation marks a final admission of defeat in the attempt to join film and television content with the free online world:

Talk about the mourning after. Almost a decade later, one of the worst deals of all time still has little to recommend it. In 1999, at the peak of the dotcom bubble, upstart AOL bought the old media dinosaur Time Warner for $164bn in stock. On Thursday – following the announcement AOL will be spun-out by the year’s end – Time Warner’s market capitalisation stood at $28bn, with the recently split-off Time Warner Cable valued at a further $11bn.

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Apple’s MacBook Air, Sony’s Vaio P Series and now Dell’s Adamo belong to an elite category of portable personal computers whose appeal owes as much to design aesthetics as it does to technology, writes Paul Taylor:

Sony and Apple have a reputation for such products. But Dell – outside of its Alienware unit, which builds high-performance PCs for games players – is best known for producing solid mainstream desktops and businesslike laptops targeting corporate buyers and penny-pinched students. Read more

For the FT’s New Technology Policy Forum, University of Chicago professor Richard Epstein considers the European Commission’s recent fining of Intel for anticompetitive behaviour:

On May 13, 2009, the European Commission fined Intel just over €1bn for its supposed abuse of its dominant market position in violation of Article 82 of the EC Treaty. That decision marks yet another effort by commissioner Neelie Kroes to ratchet up the enforcement of EC competition policy, all in the name of preventing consumer harm. Yet the devil lies in this one detail. The aggrieved “consumer” of Intel is its long-time junior rival, AMD, which filed three separate complaints against Intel between 2000 and 2006.

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  • The economic slump hasn’t ended yet. That was the word from the executives of Microsoft and Dell, as they countered the recent optimistic views expressed by other big tech companies. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, said: “To think that things would be back in a year seems naive to me.” Brian Gladden, Dell’s chief financial officer, said: “Based on what we see in the marketplace, we’re not comfortable talking about seeing a bottom at this point.”
  • Microsoft and Google took direct aim at each other’s core businesses as they showed off ambitious new services that represent some of their biggest internet development efforts. Microsoft unveiled its new search engine, Bing, to generally positive reviews. Google, meanwhile, stole the thunder by showing-off Wave, a new communication platform that incorporates elements of email, chat and document sharing.

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Microsoft is taking aim at Google’s core business with Bing, its new search engine.

Initial reviews around the web are positive. CNET said, “in search presentation, Bing wins.” Geekword said it was not just renamed Live Search, but rather “a significant upgrade that contains new features and a new interface and is considered as a decision engine.” But Search Engine Land made it clear that, “no, Bing is not a ‘Google Killer.’”

FT reporter Joe Menn attended Bing’s unveiling at the D7 conference, and filed this report:

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer gave an impressive demonstration of the company’s improved search engine, rebranded as “Bing,” at a technology conference in Carlsbad California.

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The FT’s editorial board argues that social networks are a challenge to undemocratic societies:

Web 2.0 – user-created content – has created further outlets for subversion, by making it easier to argue online and organise web-based movements. In many countries, political discourse, seared offline, is sprouting on the internet.

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From the FT’s Comment page, Irwin Stelzer, director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, says the US is finally catching up to the EU and getting tough on high-tech anti-competitive behaviour:

For once, America is running at top speed to catch up with the European Union. In levying a record fine against Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, the EU competition authorities have let it be known that a dominant company’s efforts to crush rivals by threatening customers or rigging a price schedule will not be tolerated.

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HDMI - the one-cable alternative to the spaghetti of audio and video connections behind home theatre set-ups – is adding ethernet to its capabilities as the internet comes to the television and living room.

A new proliferation of wires threatens, with internet-connected games consoles, set-top boxes and even TV sets linked by ethernet cables. However, HDMI ‘s 1.4 specification, announced today, means such data requirements can now be absorbed in its next-generation cable instead. Read more

  • A Yahoo / Microsoft deal could still be struck if it involved “a boatload of money.” That was the word from Carol Bartz, Yahoo’s chief executive, who said her company is no longer in serious talks with Microsoft over a deal to combine their search efforts. But she acknowledged that negotiations between the two companies were continuing “a little bit”.
  • Time Warner is close to a decision to spin off all of its AOL internet business, according to three people in contact with the company. Although a decision has not yet been finalised, executives prefer spinning off the whole division rather than a part. Over the past year, Time Warner has considered spinning off either its advertising-driven “audience business” or its legacy dial-up internet business, they say.

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Joseph Menn, San Francisco-based technology correspondent, reports from AllThingsD, the annual tech conference put on by News Corp in Carlsbad, California:

Yahoo’s Carol Bartz, who took over as CEO in January, impressed a tough crowd, getting more sustained applause after her onstage interview than the two young men who run yesterday’s New New Thing, Twitter.

Bartz came across as sensible and plain spoken, the logical sort of manager to straighten out an inherited organisation chart that appeared made of spaghetti. Read more

Watch out Microsoft: Google is trying to up the pace in its attempt to turn the Web into a platform for applications that fully matches today’s computer operating systems.

That was the clear message today at the company’s annual developer conference in San Francisco, which attracted 4,000 people.

The focus of Google’s pitch: HTML5, the next version of the internet markup language, which should exploit more of the capabilities in browsers to produce richer applications and experiences. Among the things Google showed off today were 3D graphics running inside a browser, a way to parcel out computing resources more efficiently so that browsers can handle much heavier workloads, and tools to make browser-based apps continue to function even when offline. Read more

New York media correspondent Kenneth Li reports:

Not all subscribers are born equal.

Imagine my surprise when I, a faithful subscriber to The New Yorker on Amazon’s Kindle, was denied full access to the

That’s what happened yesterday after I tried to pull up a copy of the much-discussed Carlos Slim profile in the latest edition of The New Yorker from its website, but was denied access. It is restricted to print subscribers.

Like other periodicals eyeing a bleak print advertising future, The New Yorker has begun restricting full website access to those who pay for the print copy or pay specifically for the right to access the site. Read more

Chris  Bryant, our correspondent in Berlin, reports on how an inquiry began today into the leaking by German MPs of last Saturday’s presidential election result on Twitter.  (Psssst! Horst Köhler (pictured centre) was the winner.)

Continue reading “German MPs under fire over Twitter leak”

While François Truffaut harshly argued that Britain and cinema were incompatible terms, the same condemnation could justifiably apply to mobile phones and web browsers.

The two just haven’t mixed well. Displaying a standard web page on a small screen has often meant unacceptable squinting and scrolling. Data connections have tended to be slow and problematic, while the lack of multimedia plug-ins has ruled out video and audio being played. Read more

Unlike a certain other internet mogul we could name, Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t actually been to Russia – though not for lack of trying.

When we caught up with him to talk about Russian firm DST’s $200m investment in Facebook (our earlier coverage is here and here), he confessed to having tried – and failed – to get into Russia when he took time off last year to travel around Europe.

Mr Zuckerberg’s description of what happened sounds like something that any other 20-something ex-college student on a European backpacking tour could relate to (even if they don’t own their own internet companies.) Read more

  • Facebook accepted a $200m investment from Digital Sky Technologies, a private Russian internet investment group, valuing the fast-growing social network’s preferred stock at $10bn. The unlikely union gives Facebook an additional cash cushion, but the $10bn valuation is a come down. Just a year and a half ago, Microsoft invested $240m on similar terms, but valued Facebook’s preferred stock at $15bn.
  • Psystar, the Florida company that was making unauthorised clones of Apple computers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The move puts at least a temporary end to Apple’s lawsuit against the company, and could indicate that Psystar’s backers have pulled out, anticipating a victory by Apple in court.

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Today’s $200m investment in Facebook by Digital Sky Technologies values the companies preferred stock at $10bn. That’s just two-thirds of what Microsoft valued Facebook at in late 2007, when it invested $240m. The FT’s Lex column examines the difficulty inherant in valuing a private company:

Privacy is a wonderful thing. With a straight face one can say that a company is worth several billion dollars having not produced a single fact to back it up. Similarly the debate about Facebook’s valuation is somewhat futile. There are simply not enough numbers to construct a meaningful picture of the social network’s finances.

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