Monthly Archives: July 2009

Chris Nuttall

Moore’s Law has been proven for more than 40 years as the chip industry has gone on making smaller chips at lower costs. Their improved performance has driven consumer demand, which has funded the big investments needed in new equipment for volume production.

Our Silicon Showdown series today looks at the current debate about the economic rather than scientific limits of Moore’s Law. But there is an addendum about the economics if the industry actually moves up a size. Read more

Richard Waters

To cheer themselves up in these dark times, Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists have taken to drawing comparisons with tech’s pre-bubble days. If investment activity has returned to levels seen in the mid-1990s, the argument goes, this at least represents a healthy baseline: it is the “new normal” from which things start to pick up again.

So they should get a kick out of the latest figures from the National Venture Capital Association. Based on the $3.7bn put to work in the second quarter (up a little from the first quarter, but down by more than 50 per cent from a year ago), the total invested this year is projected to reach 1996-1997 levels. Of course, back then the VC industry provided a living for far fewer people. The shake-out has barely started.

David Gelles

  • Barnes & Noble unveiled its challenge to Amazon’s Kindle e-book service with an expanded online store selling more than 200,000 e-book titles for both laptop computers and mobile devices. The chain also said it would provide the e-book store for a wireless portable e-reader being developed by Plastic Logic that is scheduled for launch next year.
  • Texas Instruments, the second largest US chipmaker, reported a surge in demand for its products in the second quarter as it beat revenue and profit expectations. Following Intel’s positive outlook last week, TI gave another boost to the tech sector, forecasting solid growth in the current quarter.

 Read more

Richard Waters

This is something of a landmark: Microsoft is contributing code to the Linux kernel.

Really. The company that once described Linux as a cancer, and compared open source software to  communism, is releasing tens of thousands of lines of codes to the enemy, and under the GPL licence that it has so long decried. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Macrovision shortened its name this week, but broadened its vision of making all forms of digital content available through the television.

The Silicon Valley company, best known for its copyright protection of physical media such as DVDs, relaunched itself as Rovi on the Nasdaq and unveiled its digital future in Liquid Guide. Read more

Richard Waters

Amazon’s woeful decision to delete unauthorised copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from its customers’ Kindles hammers home an uncomfortable lesson.

The idea that you can “own” digital data, in the same sense that you can own a book, was always suspect. But at least some forms of digital media have conveyed many of the attributes of ownership. With local storage, the bits have been delivered onto a device that you can unplug and put in your pocket. The information, at that point, is “yours”. Read more

Chris Nuttall

The US video game industry, which appeared to be riding out the recession last year, had the horse shot from under it in the first half of 2009.

The June sales figures released by the NPD research firm on Thursday night showed the fourth consecutive month of year-over-year declines. June’s 31 per cent drop was the greatest year-over-year monthly fall since September 2000, when the industry declined 41 per cent. Read more

David Gelles

Writing for the FT’s New Technology Policy Forum, Columbia University professor Eli Noam foresees a future in which a mobile device will be not just an undersized screen, but as an extraordinarily powerful connection point to a new style of video media.

Images will be projected through light video glasses and heads-up displays using microlaser projectors embedded in the temples of eyeglasses, and known as personal media viewers, which enables sharper and multi-dimensional images while maintaining sight lines to the real world. Read more

David Gelles

Chris Nuttall

Apple customers may have downloaded 1.5bn applications from its AppStore in the past year for their iPhones and iPod touches, but the service does not represent the future for the mobile industry, according to Google.

Vic Gundotra, Google Engineering vice president and developer evangelist, (pictured centre) told the Mobilebeat conference in San Francisco on Thursday that the web had won and users of mobile phones would get their information and entertainment from browsers in future. Read more

Paul Taylor

One of the features that made Palm’s recently launched Palm Pre smartphone stand out in an increasingly crowded market was the ability to sync non-copy protected songs with Apple’s iTunes software.

Much to the chagrin of Apple, Palm’s engineers had figured out a way to build iTunes synchronisation into the Pre – something no other smartphone maker (other than Apple) had managed to do.  This achievement was perhaps not so surprising since many had been recruited by Jon Rubinstein, who helped develop the iPod at Apple before joining Palm in 2007. Read more

Chris Nuttall

  • Twitter is facing death by a thousand cuts – well, at least 310, anyway. That is the number of confidential internal documents that Mike Arrington of TechCrunch says he has been supplied with by an anonymous hacker, who obtained the information from a Twitter employee’s account with Google. The leak has caused red faces both at Twitter, which also revealed that personal internet accounts of co-founder Evan Williams had been hacked before, and Google, which defended the security of its Gmail and Apps services.
  • The PC market is looking up. Sales were stronger in the second quarter than industry analysts had predicted, suggesting that the industry could be bottoming out as consumers begin to spend more. Worldwide PC sales slipped only 3.1 per cent by volume from a year earlier, about half the retreat expected by market researcher IDC and less than half of the first-quarter’s 6.8 per cent drop.

 Read more

David Gelles

The FT’s John Gapper says the most influential piece of personal technology to emerge in recent years did not come from Apple, Amazon or Research in Motion. Instead, he points to the Asustek’s Asus Eee PC, which created the category now known as “netbooks”.

Few analysts grasped the significance of the Eee because they did not think that people in the developed world would buy a not-very-powerful device with a tiny screen and a small keyboard. Meanwhile, US companies from Dell to Microsoft and Apple gazed studiously elsewhere. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Maija Palmer and Richard Waters report on plans to expand dramatically the number of top-level web domains:

“A representative of the Pope has written to Icann with concerns over how it would ensure that sensitive religious domains – “.catholic”, “.muslim” or even “.god” – would not fall into the wrong hands. Public interest groups, meanwhile, fear that the changes mark part of a more general rewriting of the rules of the internet that could see free speech lose out to commercial interests.” Read more

Joseph Menn

The probe of the cyber-attacks on US and South Korean websites last week has turned up a number of suspected command computers, including a possible “master” server in the UK.

But researchers assisting the US government in the unusually intense inquiry still put the odds of an arrest at well under 20 per cent. Read more

Chris Nuttall

My BlackBerry suddenly became a Google phone today, a transformation that surprised me, but may be a cause for concern for the telecoms industry.

Google announced the Google Voice mobile app for BlackBerry and Android phones this morning. It’s a small download that can make a big difference to the phone interface. Read more

David Gelles

  • Intel, the world’s biggest chipmaker, reported its strongest pick-up in business in more than 20 years, giving a major lift to the PC industry and technology sector. Intel reported second-quarter revenues of $8bn, up 12 per cent on the first quarter and well ahead of analyst expectations of $7.23bn. Its profit of 18 cents a share also easily exceeded a consensus of 8 cents. The chipmaker was the first big technology company to report earnings this season, providing a boost to the sector and the wider market.
  • Dell plans to plunge into the crowded smartphone market and invest in other new areas, fuelling investor concerns that profit margins will continue to erode at the world’s second-largest computer maker. Ronald Garriques, president of Dell’s consumer division, said the company would “work with the top three to four” telecommunications carriers “and see what their needs are”.The declaration follows innovations in recent months from other manufacturers of internet-enabled phones such as Apple and Research in Motion, while spending on other computing products is flagging.
  • Microsoft unveiled pricing details and launch plans for Windows Azure, the “cloud” operating system that Ray Ozzie hopes will become the online analogue to Windows on the personal computer – a platform that supports applications on the internet. The formalising of the plans, with Azure services going on sale in November, caps the first stage in an planned cultural and technological transformation of the world’s biggest software company.

 Read more

Richard Waters

Maybe YouTube can do what the European Commission can’t: break open the internet browser market.

That is one intriguing possibility raised by a YouTube prompt that invites some visitors to the site to select a new browser (image from TechCrunch, after the jump). They are given three options: Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 3.5 (in that order).

It’s surely no coincidence that this is the approach the EC has been trying to force on Microsoft. Brussels wants Microsoft to provide Windows users with a “ballot screen” offering them a choice of browsers (likely also to include Safari and Opera). Read more

David Gelles

  • Digital Sky Technologies, the Russian internet group that has invested $200m in Facebook, will purchase up to $100m in common stock from existing shareholders in the social network. The deal clarifies Facebook’s valuation, giving its common stock a value of about $6.5bn. This is higher than the rumoured valuations last autumn when a similar deal was considered, but lower than the value of Facebook’s preferred stock.
  • Microsoft escalated its battle with arch rival Google, reacting to an assault on one of its core businesses with the announcement of a free online version of its widely used Office software, to be launched next year. While likely to take only a small bite out of Office revenues in the short term, the move represents one of the most radical steps yet by Microsoft as it tries to refocus its software business around the internet, according to analysts.

 Read more

Chris Nuttall

Our notion of real time as it relates to the web is still fuzzy in its newness.

The Real-Time Stream Crunchup event in Silicon Valley was the first major conference to look at this year’s buzz trend – the real-time web. Ironically, it was running over an hour late by the time I got there on Friday. Read more