Monthly Archives: August 2009

Chris Nuttall

The semiconductor industry appears to be recovering rapidly from the recession, according to the latest industry figures.

Sales in July were down 18.2 per cent on the same month last year, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.

However, that compares to an average monthly fall of 25 per cent in the first six months of the year. 

Richard Waters

It’s hard to escape the view that what really annoys the European book industry about Google’s ambitious digital library project is that only US internet users will be allowed to browse in it.

According to some estimates, a third or more of the in-copyright books that Google is scanning in US libraries are from European publishers and authors, but European internet users won’t get to see these works. The legal settlement only involves the digital rights to display them in the US.

If this galvanises Europe to work harder to create the conditions for its own digital library, so much the better. But as EU commissioner Viviane Reding warned at the end of this week, there are some significant hurdles to be overcome. 

Tim Bradshaw

Augmented reality comes to the FT

Today’s edition of the Financial Times features an experiment with an emerging technology which is already winning over geeks and marketeers alike: augmented reality. 

David Gelles

When Singularity University was announced in February, its organisers said that during the 10 week summer course, which concluded today, students would work together to solve humanity’s “grand challenges.” By combining their supposedly above-average wits with Silicon Valley’s latest technologies, the 40 or so SU students would find innovative solutions for perennial problems including energy scarcity, climate change and hunger.

The effort, backed by Google and NASA, came across as innovative, if a bit hubristic. With its emphasis on smarter-than-human computers, it also raised plenty of concerns. As we wrote at the time, “many critics call the singularity dangerous. Some worry that a malicious artificial intelligence might annihilate the human race.”

At its closing ceremony today, four teams of SU students presented their projects. What emerged were not futuristic plans to embed computer chips in the brain and build super-smart machines, but noble (if half-baked) plans that leverage existing technologies to address important (if not entirely grand) challenges. 

Richard Waters

Venture capitalists are professional optimists – they have to be. How else could they keep investing in new businesses where the obstacles to success would seem insurmountable to most people?

But sometimes reality just has to be faced, and the reality in front of the VC industry right now is not pretty.

Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital sums it up here: half the industry could be swept away by the current downturn (though as an optimist, he clearly thinks he will end up in the fortunate half). 

Richard Waters

In the evolution of the Amazon Cloud, Wednesday’s news of a trial service designed specifically for the core applications of large companies seems to mark a watershed.

So far, the Amazon pitch has mainly been directed at smaller companies, or at bigger ones looking for somewhere to host high-volume Web services. It is now trying to take things one step further. 

Richard Waters

It may have taken close to 10 months, but opposition to the Google book settlement has finally coalesced.

The Open Book Alliance formally launched today with this promise:

The Open Book Alliance will counter Google, the Association of American Publishers and the Authors’ Guild’s scheme to monopolize the access, distribution and pricing of the largest digital database of books in the world.  To this end, we will promote fair and flexible solutions aimed at achieving a more robust and open system.

 

Joseph Menn

The part of US information technology most at risk from a serious attack is the directory service that steers internet users to the websites they want, according to a federal report issued Tuesday after more than a year of study.

The report from the Department of Homeland Security and private information technology leaders rated the chances of something serious going wrong with six key functions as part of the IT sector “baseline risk assessment.” Those assessments are being published for 18 sectors deemed critical to the country’s national security. 

Richard Waters

Citizendium was meant to represent an advance on Wikipedia. Compared to the flame wars and defacement that occasionally blight articles on the popular online encyclopedia, Citizendium founder Larry Sanger wanted to create a place for the world to share its knowledge in a more controlled atmosphere. He saw it as somewhere that expertise would be given its due and where the discussion could rise above the rabble (see today’s news for Wikipedia’s own latest attempt to control the crowd).

It only added to the intrigue that Sanger and Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s Svengali, had fallen out badly – indeed, were in dispute over how much credit each should get for the creation of Wikipedia in the first place (see Sanger’s Wikipedia page for more).

Now, Sanger tells me, he wants to move on from Citizendium, and is looking for a suitable institution to take over management of his pet project – though he promises he will not leave it in the lurch (see the comment added below). 

Richard Waters

“Good enough” used to be Microsoft’s mantra: why pay more for corporate IT when Windows on the server works well enough in most situations?

That same argument has been turned against it by a succession of rivals, from Linux to Google Apps. These and many others have exposed Microsoft’s feature-creep and often left it defending the higher-cost option (and led it to look to defensive alliances like one with Nokia – see note below).

In emerging markets, though, Microsoft has less of an entrenched business to defend and is freer to innovate. Take today’s news from Redmond, of a Java-like environment with the potential to turn hundreds of millions of standard mobile phones into simple internet-connected devices.