Monthly Archives: June 2009

Tim Bradshaw

With the UK government’s Digital Britain report due tomorrow, it’s not surprising that today has seen a crop of announcements from media companies touting their digital credentials.

Three claimed “firsts” announced today are Virgin Media’s “unlimited” music downloading partnership with Universal Music; broadcaster Five allowing full-length programmes to be embedded (YouTube-style) in third-party websites; and video streaming site Blinkbox offering pay-per-view Warner Bros movies, from the Dark Knight to Casablanca. Read more

The FT’s Lex column looks at the dilutive stock sale that will see the founders of Dutch navigation device maker TomTom give up their majority stake in the company to head off a debt cruch. Its conclusion:

Painful, but a price worth paying to put the focus back on growth, and away from a tattered balance sheet. Read more

Robin Harding

Sony's 11

In May 2008, chairman and chief executive Sir Howard Stringer said that, within the next twelve months, Sony would launch a 27″ television based on OLED – organic light emitting diode – technology.

More than twelve months later, with no 27″ version released and Sony showing only 21″ prototypes, it’s time to ask what happened. Read more

Richard Waters

You’d think that Microsoft’s rivals would welcome the company’s announcement that it will ship Windows 7 in Europe without an internet browser.

After 15 years (that’s how long ago it was that the US first forced Microsoft into a consent decree promising not to “tie” other products illegally to Windows) the software company has finally agreed to untie the browser completely, at least in Europe. It feels like a watershed.

So are the makers of Firefox, Opera and other browsers dancing in the streets? Not a bit of it. Read more

Chris Nuttall

  • The switch-off of analogue television broadcasts due to take place across the US on Friday has done little to boost pay-TV subscriptions and could result in weeks of confusion for the millions of non-digital households facing blank screens.
  • The fight between Microsoft and the European Union over how to bring greater competition to the internet browser market erupted anew late yesterday as the software company sought to preempt stringent anti-trust action being planned by Brussels.

 Read more

Chris Nuttall

East Africa will on Friday move closer to ending its isolation as the world’s last region not connected to the global broadband network, reports Barney Jopson from Nairobi. A fibre-optic undersea cable will “land” at the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

Continue reading Barney Jopson’s report from East Africa

Chris Nuttall

Video-game industry sales are continuing to slump in the US, with NPD figures for May released this evening showing a 23 per cent drop year-on-year, with falls led by hardware sales.

It’s hard to imagine any improvement till the holiday season, barring early price cuts for the consoles.  Major game releases also seem to be “back-end loaded”, compared to last year, when there were big hits earlier in the year, such as Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA). Read more

  • Access to the internet is a human right. So said France‘s constitutional council, striking down a controversial law that would have given officials the power to block the internet access of persistent copyright violators. The government of Nicolas Sarkozy had sided with content creators in backing the idea.
  • Palm completed its Apple make-over. Jon Rubinstein, the former Apple wizard brought in to mastermind the well-received Pre, was named chief executive officer, taking over from Ed Colligan.
  • Microsoft is to stop selling its Money personal finance software, according to Cnet. Money has never achieved the same popularity as Quicken from Intuit, a company it once tried to buy. Microsoft had signalled its fading interest in the product by failing to take it online as Quicken has done, to compete with newcomers such as Mint.com.

 Read more

Tim Bradshaw

“It’s a bummer.”

That’s how Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive, described the departure of Last.fm’s three founders, Martin Stiksel, Felix Miller and Richard Jones.

CBS paid $280m in 2007 for Last.fm, an online music service and community now used by over 37m people a month. It remains one of the UK’s biggest buyouts in the web 2.0 era and Last.fm is still a fixture of London’s Silicon Roundabout.

Yet Mr Smith was magnanimous as three darlings of the web scene left CBS Interactive, which as a whole generated revenues of over $600m last year. Read more

  • EMC continues to court Data Domain. Joe Tucci, EMC’s chief executive, today took the unusual step of writing an open letter to Data Domain employees, explaining why their company would fare better with EMC than with rival NetApp. It was an opportunity for Mr Tucci to plead his case, but of course he’s barking up the wrong tree. It is Data Domain’s board, not its employees, who will decide its fate. Data Domain has agreed to a hybrid offer of $30 a share from NetApp. EMC has in a $30 all-cash offer, which looks to be superior. Data Domain said it will respond to the EMC offer by June 16. Stay tuned.
  • Google opened up another front in its broadening war with Microsoft today as the search leader made its increasingly popular Gmail, contacts and calendar applications compatible with Microsoft’s ubiquitous Outlook system. Outlook isn’t going away any time soon, but the move by Google means that Microsoft has one more piece of turf to worry about protecting.

 Read more

Richard Waters

Bing has moved the needle for Microsoft, but not much.

That is according to figures from comScore, which showed an increase in traffic to the new Microsoft search service in the days since it was launched. Curiosity about Bing lifted the number of Microsoft searches by 20 per cent from the week before and the numbers held steady for five days, suggesting searchers liked what they saw and have been coming back for more.

That still only amounts to two extra points of market share, though. Read more

Chris Nuttall

WebWars emerged from stealth mode today with a fresh take on casual gaming.

The Austin, Texas-based company is offering a browser toolbar that includes pop-up windows, allowing players to while away time playing a game while they wait for information such as a flight search query to load in their browser.

The clever part is that sites they visit can be part of a “treasure hunt”, increasing engagement and earning revenues for WebWars. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Apple’s annual  Worldwide Developers Conference opened today with intense speculation that a new iPhone would be unveiled when Phil Schiller, its vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, briefed the media at 10am Pacific time.

All we knew officially was that Apple would discuss the latest version of its operating system – Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard – and talk more about the 3.0 version of the iPhone OS.  A new iPhone would have been no surprise, and we expected a cheaper version to be announced as soon as today. Any appearance by chief executive Steve  Jobs, on medical leave till the end of this month, would have been a sensation.  Here’s how the event unfolded, with our live blogging from the  Moscone Center in San Francisco. Read more

Chris Nuttall

The top-selling video game for May on the latest consoles is unlikely to be disputed. UFC 2009 Undisputed, released on May 19, shipped 2m copies in its first two weeks, according to its publisher THQ, and looks likely to top the NPD charts when the research firm releases its figures on Thursday.

It’s a sign of the growing popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the sport of mixed martial arts.  It’s also a signal for THQ’s competitors, namely Electronic Arts, to seek a piece of the action. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Which was the most innovative, risk-taking company at the E3 video game trade show in Los Angeles this week – Microsoft with its Project Natal sensor, Sony with its “glowing orb” stick or Nintendo with its Wii Vitality Sensor?

How about none of the above? The answer after the jump. Read more

Paul Taylor

Research In Motion, the Canadian manufactuer of the BlackBerry family of smartphones, has quietly acquired Dash Navigation, the US-based startup which was forced to change its business plans in November after its internet-connected GPS unit failed to attract a large enough user base. The deal was first reported by GPS Business News.

Dash, which was backed by Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia, pioneered the idea of a network connected personal navigation device that logged the position and speed of users and then fed users back real time traffic reports based on the data. While the concept, built into Dash’s first and only windscreen-mounted GPS unit, attracted considerable interest, its success was inevitably dependent on building a large enough user base. Read more

David Gelles

With Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference just days away, the technology community is eagerly anticipating the company’s next product launch, and puzzling over the fate of its founder.

The FT’s Joseph Menn reports that Apple plans to introduce a cheaper version of the iPhone as soon as Monday, in a move that could dramatically increase the company’s share of the smartphone market. Apple declined to comment, but the company typically introduces major products at its developer conference, which begins on Monday.

Chief executive Steve Jobs, who has traditionally introduced new products during the conference’s keynote, is not expected to be in attendance. Read more

The FT’s Paul Taylor examines Microsoft’s Bing search engine, designed to improve on rival offerings:

With Google synonymous with internet search engines, it might seem foolhardy if not futile for a rival to try to outdo it – even if that rival is Microsoft. Never­theless, that is just what the world’s biggest software company is attempting to do with Bing, its new search engine, which was made publicly available on ­Monday. Read more

Richard Waters

That was the verdict of Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s top software guru, when I got to ask him last night what he thought about Google’s hugely ambitious attempt to remake email, IM and, um, just about everything else.

He was speaking at the Churchill Club in San Francisco about his efforts to prepare Microsoft for the architectural shift to cloud computing (commenting on the PC-centric view of the world that dominated thinking at the company when he arrived, he confessed: “It was a bit scary”).

But it is his deep thinking and original work around collaboration that has defined most of Ozzie’s career, from Lotus through Groove Networks. So isn’t Wave the culmination of what he himself had been working towards – a collaboration tool with the power to transform the way groups of people work together? Read more