Monthly Archives: May 2009

Richard Waters

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. 

Richard Waters

Has anyone laid claim to the email address barack@gmail.gov 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. 

Richard Waters

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

  • 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.

 

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.

 

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. 

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.