Monthly Archives: October 2009

Will the new Droid smartphone be a hit for the anti-iPhone alliance of Motorola, Google and Verizon?

How is Carol Bartz doing in her effort to turn around Yahoo?

And what does the fading buzz around Nintendo’s Wii say about the future of the gaming business?

Listen to reporters from the FT’s San Francisco and Tokyo bureaus discuss some of this week’s big tech stories.

This event is now over – read the transcript by clicking on the link below.
 Read more

Nintendo has made a rare trip to Tokyo to update investors on its strategy (the session is timed, in what is becoming a Nintendo routine, to clash with Sony’s first half results briefing). From the investors and analysts I recognise here at the Imperial Hotel, it looks like Nintendo remains the greater draw, despite their weaker results yesterday.

Nintendo’s new DSi LL is available to play with in the foyer. My first impressions are that it is chunky – I wouldn’t chose one for the subway – but not all that heavy. The bigger, 4.25″ screens were a bit of a disappointment to me, because with the same resolution as the smaller DSi, it does not look very pretty. The new, full-size stylus pen is lovely though. Read more

In July we reported on how East Africa ended its isolation as the world’s last region not connected to the global broadband network. Until that point, the region relied on “satellite internet links that are slow, unreliable and often prohibitively expensive, problems that have inhibited business activity, public sector efficiency and the spread of internet access.”

Now the investment in that new technology is paying dividends. As Barney Jopson reports, Kenyans are rushing to get their businesses online and adopting “the late 1990s vocabulary of ‘B2B’ (business-to-business) and ‘B2C (business-to-consumer) transactions.” Read more

Sometimes it feels like every news story you read is about Apple. If it’s not the iPhone or the phantom tablet, then it’s Steve Jobs’ health.

So to make up for it, today’s headlines are being hogged by Google. There was the first appearance of the much-hyped Android 2.0 on the Droid handset, not to mention what Techcrunch called a “killer app” for the new mobile software platform: a navigation service (see item below).

But that’s not all. In other Google news: the launch of Music Search, and efforts to appease the FCC. Read more

Two years ago, navigation devices of the kind that you find mounted on car dashboards were one of the hot gifts of the holiday season and the stocks of Garmin and TomTom were riding high.

Not any more. Wednesday brought a double-whammy that knocked 21 per cent off shares in TomTom and 16 per cent off Garmin. Of the two pieces of news, it was the second that sounded the more ominous.

First was a warning from TomTom that prices for these devices, which not so long ago commanded a hefty premium, are likely to continue to slide. They dropped 27 per cent in the company’s latest quarter to an average of under 100 euros, and that erosion shows no sign of slowing. Read more

Google Social Search, out today, is one of those ideas that is more interesting for what it might foreshadow than what it actually delivers.

We’ve all been conditioned by now into thinking that Google=Algorithms, and that Facebook=Social. That dichotomy falls away with a service like Google Social Search, a demonstration of how algorithms can make use of social connections that lie within reach of Google’s crawlers.

The Social Search service works by trying to divine who might be included in your social circle (broadly defined), then drawing from any relevant material these people have posted on public websites when you search for a particular term. These “social” results appear in a separate section of the search results, near the bottom of the page. Read more

AudioBoo should soon be making a bigger noise in the US after a fresh funding round today.

The UK-based service is the best technology I’ve encountered for creating and instantly publishing high-quality mini-podcasts while on the go. Read more

Finding that elusive open Wi-Fi connection just got easier this week with the launch of a new application that is building a world Wi-Fi map from its users connections.

Devicescape, a Silicon Valley startup, had previously offered a simple program called Easy Wifi that enabled automatic logons to Wi-Fi networks – walk into a Starbucks and the iPhone app would immediately connect you to the AT&T hotspot there. Read more

Earlier this year we asked if Facebook was “monopolising the social networking market“.

An upstart social network aggregator,, had sued Facebook in California court, and it looked like the law might force Facebook to open up its walled-garden. Power was alleging that Facebook restricts users and stifles competition, and was in violation of California’s unfair competition laws and US antitrust laws.

The answer seems to be no. On Friday a judge dismissed the case. Power’s claims “contain no factual allegations,” wrote US district judge Jeremy Fogel. Read more

In this week’s FT techtalk, whatever was under discussion, it was hard to avoid bringing Apple into the conversation.

A blow-out quarter, new products, fresh Android competition for the iPhone and Nokia launching a legal strike – Apple is in everyone’s sights.

We also looked at the latest eReaders (yes, we’re sure there’s an Apple one coming as well) and assessed whether they are ready to be bestsellers with consumers or end up in the remainders pile.

And we reported live as Microsoft issued its first-quarter earnings.

Read the multimedia transcript below and join us live again next Friday for FT techtalk, a multimedia chat with the FT’s tech correspondents. Read more

DailymotionDailymotion, Europe’s biggest online video challenger to YouTube, on Thursday said it had raised $25m in a new funding round led by the French Sovereign Fund (FSI). The French strategic investments fund, which is 49 per cent owned by the government, contributed $11m to the round, with all the existing investors, Advent Venture Partners, AGF PE, Partech International and Atlas Ventures,  taking part.

Dailymotion chief executive Cedric Tournay also said the company had now hit break-even and expected to make a profit next year. The site now attracts around 60m unique users each month, up from 35m a year ago.  Although it is dwarfed by YouTube, it is doing well to survive and grow in a market where competitors like Joost and Veoh have had to retreat. Read more

With dozens of smartphones powered by Google’s Android operating system set to hit the market, a different challenger to the Apple iPhone was on display in Tokyo today: the Else, from London-listed Israeli technology company Emblaze, using software made by Access of Japan.

The two companies are making bold claims for the device, long in development under the codename of Monolith. “Imagine a device that is not a phone surrounded by gimmicks you will not use; where the camera literally replaces your digital camera; you get real-time push email wherever you are in the globe; almost every song and film in the the world is one click away; and any one of its multitude of features is reached with no more than one light gesture of your finger and not buried deep inside folders within folders,” said Amir Kupervas, the chief executive of Emblaze Mobile.

The credibility of that statement was impossible to judge while watching Access’s chief technology officer demonstrate the device. Read more

Social games are oft criticised for being little more than drivel. It’s a fair charge. After all, there’s not much intellectual value in games like Sorority Life and Mob Wars.

Nonetheless, they have become among the most popular activities for users of social networks. Zynga, the largest maker of social games, says it has 50m daily active users of its various games, most of those on Facebook. In turn, Zynga is raking in cash through the sale of virtual goods.

Now Zynga is trying to do a bit of good in the world. At the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco yesterday, Zynga chief executive Mark Pincus said the company was now raising money for charities through “social virtual goods”. Read more

Nvidia today launched a “GPU computing in the cloud” service that will allow designers to manipulate and check photo-realistic environments in a fraction of the normal time it takes on a PC workstation. Read more

Google is expected to launch its own self-branded smartphone before the year is out, according to Ashok Kumar, Northeast Securities analyst

It will follow up with a series of phones running its Android operating system, as well as launching a branded netbook running its new Chrome operating system early next year, the analyst told me. Read more

The Beatles: Rock Band outsold Guitar Hero 5 in September in the US, while Sony’s PS3 console beat its rivals’ sales figures for the first time, according to the latest figures from the NPD research firm.

The “Battle of the Bands” was a key focus as the two titles were released at the same time, but both were outsold by the latest release in the Halo franchise - Halo 3: ODST - and Madden NFL 10. Read more

A compendium of digital book announcements for you today.

First, Spring Design has announced Alex (pictured), the first Android-based eReader, with full web browsing capabilities and patented dual-screen technology. Read more

An ARM race is beginning to take shape in smartphones, as the latest models demand faster processors to deal with an expanding range of computing and multimedia activities on devices.

Marvell announced today it would overtake Qualcomm’s 1GHz  Snapdragon processor with a new family of Armada processors, based on ARM of the UK’s designs, capable of speeds up to 1.2Ghz.

That is twice the clock speed of the 600Mhz iPhone 3GS and the new Motorola Droid, reported to contain a 600Mhz Texas Instruments processor. Read more

The amount of anti-iPhone propaganda emanating from Verizon Wireless suggests the rumour mongers have all been wrong that the US carrier will finally get the device when AT&T’s exclusive agreement with Apple expires in June 2010.

Verizon’s latest jibe at the iPhone and AT&T came this weekend with a teaser commercial for its first Android phone – the Motorola Droid, launching in November. Read more

Silicon Valley cheered three months ago when there was a slight uptick in venture capital investment during the second quarter of the year. Sure, investment was down 50 per cent from a year ago, but at least it was up from the first quarter, representing a “new normal” from which growth could begin anew.

Turns out the celebrations were premature.  Investments in US venture-backed companies dropped in the third quarter, putting 2009 on track to be the worst year since 2003, according to new data from  Dow Jones VentureSource. The total number of deals was up to 616, from 595 the previous quarter. But the total dollars invested was down to $5.1bn from $5.4bn.

“The slow recovery we’ve seen for venture capital has faltered,” said Jessica Canning, director of global research at Dow Jones VentureSource. “As liquidity and fundraising lag after the economic meltdown in 2008, investors have no choice but to keep a tight rein on investments until the industry is on more solid ground.”

Nor are many venture firms raising new funds. Just 17 VC firms raised new funds in the third quarter, the smallest number since the third quarter of 1994, according to Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association.

What’s worse, VentureSource didn’t take a rosy view of the future. Read more