Monthly Archives: July 2009

David Gelles

Skype’s future just got cloudier. In a regulatory filing this week, Ebay, which in 2005 acquired Skype for a final price of $3.1bn, said it might shut down the internet telephony service if it can’t resolve a legal dispute with Skype’s founders or develop an alternative technology.

The technology used to power Skype is still owned by the company’s founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis. Their new company, Joltid, licenses the technology back to Ebay.

But Joltid has accused Ebay of violating the terms of that agreement by using parts of the code it did not license, and has threatened to withdraw the technology. Ebay has asked a British court to intervene, and the case is pending.

In this week’s filing, Ebay said that while it expects to prevail in court, it was working to develop an alternative to the Joltid technology. Read more

Richard Waters

A week after unveiling very disappointing fourth quarter profits, and a day after pulling off a search alliance with Yahoo, Microsoft’s top executives faced analysts and investors at company headquarters in Redmond to discuss the state of the world. These were the highlights:

Yahoo. Some of CEO Steve Ballmer’s strongest words were reserved for defending someone else’s strategy rather than his own. He claimed Wall Street was dead wrong to have laid waste to Yahoo’s share price over the last two days. That’s a mark of how important it has become for Ballmer that Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz succeeds: a wounded Yahoo is the last thing he needs as he takes aim at Google. He now has a large vested interest in its success. Read more

Richard Waters

Microsoft has worked out a new way to disintermediate the bloggers and get its own voice out on the real-time Web.

If you can’t attend an important event, following someone who is live-blogging it is sometimes a good way to keep up with the news (we did it ourselves yesterday for the Microsoft/ Yahoo search announcement.)

But why leave it to highly opinionated, possibly erroneous intermediaries to get your message out? “Real-time” is coming to have an increasingly important influence on shaping how major events come to be seen – not so much the first draft of history as the first quick scribble. Read more

Chris Nuttall

The Applesphere has been abuzz this morning about the possibility of Steve Jobs giving a keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

This emanates from a Wall Street Journal report of a dinner hosted by Gary Shapiro, Consumer Electronics Association president, in San Francisco on Tuesday night.

I was also at the dinner and have a transcript after the jump of the CEA president’s comments, which reveal Apple will have a big presence at CES, but only through third parties. Read more

Is there finally light at the end of the tunnel for embattled D-Ram memory chipmakers?  Research consultancy iSuppli seems to think so, and this week changed its near-term outlook rating for D-Ram suppliers to “positive” for the first time since last September.

In fact, D-Ram’s troubles had begun long before last September, with the market “stuck in a state of oversupply for nearly three years,” according to iSuppli chief analyst Nam Hyung Kim. Read more

Richard Waters

With advertisers like Martin Sorrell lining up to welcome Wednesday’s Microsoft/ Yahoo search pact, it might seem churlish for regulators to take a long hard look at the alliance. But that is exactly what they’re going to do – and there’s certainly no assurance that the deal will get the green light.

The babyfood business in the US provides the biggest warning sign. Back in 2000, Gerber controlled around two thirds of the US market for jarred babyfood – not that different from Google’s 77 per cent share of US search advertising, according to Microsoft’s figures. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Consumers worldwide spent nearly half a billion dollars on digital video software last year, according to a new study by John Peddie Research.

The firm predicts flat spending this year, partly due to the economic downturn but also because “consumers have made it very clear that they are not interested in difficult-to-use video editing software.” Read more

Richard Waters gives his thoughts on the Microsoft / Yahoo deal – listen below:

Richard Waters

Microsoft and Yahoo agreed on Wednesday to an online alliance that could create a more formidable rival to Google in the search business. The deal will give Microsoft a 10-year licence to integrate Yahoo’s search technology into its existing search platforms, while Yahoo will become the “relationship sales force” for advertisers for both companies.

This post is a live blog of a conference call with Carol Bartz and Steve Ballmer, the chief executives of Yahoo and Microsoft. Read more

David Gelles

William Shatner was all over the web today.

Early this morning a video of his appearance on last night’s episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien went viral, racing around the internet as it was shared via Facebook and Twitter. In the skit, the former Star Trek actor parodied former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin by performing a poetic rendition of excerpts from her farewell speech.

Then Mr Shatner’s voice began coming through on automated phone calls to Hewlett-Packard employees. In a campaign organised by environmental group Greenpeace, Mr Shatner recorded a short message encouraging Hewlett-Packard to phase-out its use of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Spansion, the chipmaker hit by overcapacity and falling prices for Flash memory, could emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the fourth quarter.

The debt-ridden Silicon Valley company filed for protection from its creditors on March 1, but its latest quarterly results show restructuring left it with cash balances of $220m at the end of June, up from $95m in March. It reported $376m in quarterly sales. Read more

Chris Nuttall

THQ and chief executive Brian Farrell (pictured) made a fighting comeback in the June quarter, with their mixed-martial arts game selling nearly 3m copies and returning the video game publisher to profit.

THQ reported sales up 77 per cent on the previous year at $243.5m and profits of 9 cents a share compared to losses of 41 cents. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Verizon is turning to machines as a source of new subscriber growth, in a joint venture with wireless chipmaker Qualcomm.

The great thing about machines is they won’t churn, said Steve Pazol, head of the new company at a press-conference launch today. He cited the example of a John Deere tractor sitting in a field having no interest in switching to a cheaper family plan with another carrier. Read more

David Gelles

Some bloggers are under increased scrutiny for failing to disclose relationships they have with companies they promote in posts.

The FTC is considering new guidelines that would hold bloggers and companies liable for untruthful statements made on blogs or social media sites, and organisations such as Word of Mouth Marketing Association and the Social Media Business Council are developing codes of ethics that encourage transparency for independent and corporate bloggers alike.

Now a group of “mommy bloggers” is banding together to promote a group called Blog With Integrity. The self-organised, self-policing group aims to instill a new measure of credibility in the blogosphere by encouraging bloggers to come out and proclaim their incorruptibility. Read more

Chris Nuttall

It is clear from the moment visitors step into the lobby of AOL’s New York headquarters that this soon-to-be-spun-off internet division of Time Warner remains a work in progress, writes Kenneth Li.

Tim Armstrong, AOL’s chief executive since March, would prefer that visitors based their initial impressions by starting with his office. A giant black-and-white poster of CNN founder Ted Turner in Apple’s “Think Different” advertising campaign hangs on a wall in a room surrounded by pictures of his three children. Read more

Chris Nuttall

The evolution of video on the web has been far from smooth.

Many start-ups have disappeared, concepts have failed and even YouTube has proved to be a costly acquisition for Google.

But that has not stopped the industry from figuring out ways to make money and survive. Read more

David Gelles

As part of his turnaround strategy for Ebay, chief executive John Donahoe has been working to revive the main Ebay shopping site. This has meant improving search results, moving to more fixed-price sales, and making the buying experience more reliable. As we reported in Monday’s paper, the strategy finally seems to be working.

Now Mr Donahoe is aiming to bring even more formality to the once freewheeling marketplace. Starting in October those sellers with the highest customer service rating will receive a Top-Rated Seller badge. The badge is more than just ornamentation. Read more

Joseph Menn

Apple is aiming to ship its oft-rumoured tablet-style touch-screen computer this fall, we reported over the weekend, combining a big screen with the functionality of an iPod Touch.

The company has been striving to perfect the device for years, while attempt by PC makers to peddle Microsoft-powered tablets have fizzled. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Augmented reality is a many-rendered thing, a buzz phrase augmented itself by an expanding definition. Some technology applications don’t really seem to fit the description as they jump on the bandwagon.

Take Mattel’s announcement of “augmented-reality technology” being included in its toys at this week’s Comic-Con show in San DiegoRead more

David Gelles

Live by the sword, die by the sword. Facebook prides itself for being a deeply interconnected network where links, content and ideas can go viral. That’s part of its appeal, and its pitch to advertisers.

But Facebook has found itself the victim of its own success. A user revolt is underway, as a huge number of users are updating their status to warn of a rumoured invasion of privacy by the site.

The message being endlessly reposted reads, “Facebook has agreed to allow third-party advertisers to use your photos without your permission”, and includes instructions on how to change this setting, along with instructions to “Repost to let your friends know!”

The message is indeed true. Read more