Monthly Archives: August 2009

David Gelles

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, like so many private company bosses, is notoriously coy when it comes to numbers. He only periodically provides updates on the all-important number of active users (250m was the last official tally). And don’t bother trying to get Mr Zuckerberg to estimate revenues (unofficial estimates are $500m for the year). But in a rare moment of candour, Mr Zuckerberg provided Bloomberg with two interesting figures.

He said that Facebook plans to expand its headcount by as much as 50 per cent this year. The recession has resulted in a surplus of talented engineers, and Facebook plans to scoop up some of these workers while they are on the market. Though the engineers at FriendFeed were gainfully employed, Facebook’s acquisition of FriendFeed two weeks ago clearly fits into Mr Zuckerberg’s bulking-up strategy. Read more

Richard Waters

The unveiling of Nokia’s new Booklet 3G is the second piece of news this month to highlight the striking change that has gone on in the relationship between the once implacable enemies from the mobile and PC worlds. For both companies this makes eminent sense – up to a point.

The first development was the agreement to put Microsoft’s Office on Nokia’s handsets (though timing and product details were entirely absent). This involved the tacit admission from Microsoft that its Windows Mobile platform was losing ground. With RIM, Apple and Google making the running, it was time to seed its software on other platforms, even if that meant cozying up to Nokia. Read more

Richard Waters

The US may have cleared Oracle’s acquisition of Sun, but there’s still a view among some people who have been close to this transaction that it won’t be the easy sell in Europe that Wall Street seems to assume.

According to this view, Oracle won’t get the same free pass to acquire Java that it got from the Department of Justice, but will be forced to accept some sort of undertaking to ensure that licensing of Java does not become overly restrictive. Given the central part Java has played in building a counter-weight to Microsoft in the software industry, it isn’t hard to see why European regulators might be interested. There have been rumblings that SAP has been lobbying hard with Brussels on this issue.

If so, then someone forgot to tell Hasso Plattner. The chairman of SAP’s supervisory board, and a co-founder of the company, Plattner was in Silicon Valley late this week, and I got the chance to ask him how he feels about Java passing to Oracle. Read more

David Gelles

As Google celebrates its fifth anniversary as a listed company, the FT’s Lex column considers the search giant’s most costly acquisition — YouTube.

Bought in 2006 for $1.65bn in stock, the video streaming site has rocketed to a dominant position in online video . . . But Google shareholders are paying to provide the world with laughing baby clips. Estimates for the cost of streaming over 5bn videos a month range from $400m to $700m annually. While Google does not break out the figures, losses are likely to be in the hundreds of millions. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Sony has changed the dimensions of its PlayStation 3 console and the dynamics of the current generation console wars with the introduction of the PS3 “Slim” from September 1 at $299 in the US.

Sony gave me a quick tour of the new console in San Francisco on Wednesday. Take a look at the smaller, lighter, less shiny PS3 in a video after the jump. Read more

David Gelles

When Ebay and General Motors last week announced they would partner to let California buyers haggle with dealers online, observers said the deal would be a “win-win for both sides”, if it worked.

After a week of the arrangement Ebay released some figures that suggest if the deal’s not working already, it might.

Through August 17 the new co-branded “virtual showroom” got 630,000 visits, and users performed just shy of 1m searches of GM inventory. More importantly, the company said about 2,400 new car buyers had entered into talks with dealers as a result of the promotion.

But Ebay didn’t release the most important number — how many new vehicles it has helped GM sell. Read more

Richard Waters

It’s hard to know how much to read into the gains that Bing has notched up in its first eight weeks, but one thing’s for sure: if it hadn’t shown these early signs of life Microsoft would currently be facing a barrage of criticism and some very difficult decisions.

The latest figures from comScore today show Bing clawing back half a percentage point of the US search market for Microsoft in July. At 8.9 per cent, its share is now up nearly a point from the 8.0 per cent recorded in May. Read more

Richard Waters

Next month it will be precisely ten years since the US Patent and Trademark Office issued patent number 5960411 to Amazon.com.

This is the case that did more than any other to draw attention to a US patenting system run amok. It gave Amazon protection for its “1-click” check-out system. Armed with this official seal of exclusivity, Amazon quickly persuaded a judge to block a rival system used by Barnes & Noble. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

The debate over what to do with those caught swapping music and movies online has flared up again this weekend after the FT reported that the UK government was considering accelerating its anti-piracy plans.

Recent ministerial changes have given record labels and other rights holders fresh ears for their lobbying, after the departure of Lord Carter, whose Digital Britain report pledged to reduce piracy by 70 per cent.

A renewed push for tougher sanctions against filesharers seems to be working. Stephen Timms, the Treasury minister who took the Digital Britain reins this month, has hinted that Ofcom could be given its “backstop” powers to force ISPs to restrict offenders’ broadband connections or block access to certain sites sooner than expected. Read more

Richard Waters

Eric Schmidt likes to claim that competition for Google’s search users is “just one click away”.

It’s easy to brush that off as a gesture to appease regulators, or just plain paranoia. But there’s a clear element of truth to it.

ComScore’s latest analysis of the US search market, released today, rubs in the point that Google’s users have already found out how to click elsewhere: they just aren’t doing it that much yet. Read more