Monthly Archives: November 2009

David Gelles

Just as Amazon’s Kindle is going all gangbusters at the start of the holiday season, the launch of perhaps its most-formidable rival is getting off to a rocky start.

The Nook, an e-reader from bookseller giant Barnes & Noble, was hailed as an improvement on the Kindle when it was unveiled in October. It supports the open Epub file format, and has a colour, touch-screen navigation interface in addition to an E-Ink screen.

But Barnes & Noble looks to have been blindsided by high demand for the Nook. A week before Thanksgiving the company said the Nook would be sold-out through the holidays.

Now comes news that while shipments will begin today, as scheduled, the Nook will not be available in Barnes & Noble stores until December 7Read more

David Gelles

Amazon and Apple must be feeling pretty good about the holidays so far.

Buoyed by Black Friday, Amazon said that November has been the best sales month ever for its Kindle. Amazon still won’t release sales figures, and e-readers could soon be outdated devices, but for now, the Kindle remains the market leader in one of the hottest consumer electronic categories of the year. (It helps that Sony’s new flagship reader and the Barnes & Noble Nook are sold out.)

Meanwhile, traffic on Amazon.com was up 28 per cent from the previous year.

Apple, too, looks to have had a big Black Friday, with online sales up 39 per cent. Sales in Apple’s retail stores appeared down, but overall, the maker of Mac computers, iPhones and iPods seems poised for robust sales this holiday season.

Even brick and mortar retailers tried to tap the web’s magic to boost holiday sales. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

As this week’s revelation of Rupert Murdoch’s plot with Microsoft to remove his newspapers’ content from Google’s index arguably show, publishers are getting increasingly desperate in their attempts to make money from the web. As the digital chief of one large ad agency group told me this week: “There is no evidence from the last 10 years that ad-supported [online news] does work.”

No wonder, then, that many newspaper and magazine people go dewy-eyed at the mention of e-readers, which offer a clean sheet of (electronic) paper after the digital disasters of the past. Read more

Richard Waters

In the world of Silicon Valley private equity, Elevation Partners has long stood out. It has a rock star among its founding partners, for a start.

It also takes big, hairy bets. You need a strong stomach to plough $460m into Palm. At last count that investment had roughly doubled in value, though Palm is still a long way from the finish line.

It’s equally hard to pass final judgment on some of its other big bets. A $300m-plus investment in games studios BioWare and Pandemic produced a 2X return within two years, though chunky investments in Forbes and internet real estate company Move look much tougher sledding.

Still, this week’s news of the first addition to the Elevation parternship in five years is a sign that it is now getting ready for round two. Read more

Silicon Valley’s commitment to shareholder democracy – or to public shareholder democracy as opposed to the influence wielded by venture capital firms – does not seem to be strong.

The news that Facebook has established a dual-class share structure, converting its existing shareholders to Class B stock carrying 10 times the voting rights of Class A shares, suggests that (despite its denials) Facebook is readying itself for an initial public offering.

It is also falling in line with Google, which created a dual-class share structure for its IPO in 2004, which also gave 10 times the voting power to some shareholders. Eric Schmidt, the company’s chief executive, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin, its co-founders, control the majority voting rights as a result. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Adconion, an online advertising company, has acquired most of Joost, bringing to an unhappy end the online video venture backed by the founders of Skype.

Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, who founded Joost in 2006, raised $45m from investors including Sequoia Capital, Index Ventures and Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kong tycoon, before launching the service to great fanfare in 2007.

But Joost struggled to compete with online video sites run by broadcasters, such as the BBC’s iPlayer and Hulu, owned by NBC and Fox. It abandoned its consumer-facing business in July to focus on selling its technology to other media companies.

Last month, its UK arm was put into liquidation. Now Adconion has acquired some of Joost’s technology, staff and content deals for an undisclosed fee, along with the rights to Joost.com. Read more

Maija Palmer

Cookie“Don’t panic” – the words on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – should also be emblazoned on the front page of the EU telecoms package, which was voted through on Tuesday.

This update on European telecoms and internet legislation has been highly controversial. Profound division on issues,  such as whether persistent illegal downloaders can have their internet access cut off, had already delayed its passage by several months.

Then, in the few weeks run-up to its approval, a new panic emerged: Would the new laws force companies to completely change the way they use internet cookies?  Read more

David Gelles

Ebay is betting big on mobile shopping. Last month we revealed what a hit the Ebay iPhone app already had proved — ringing up $400m in sales.

“More than 4.6m people have downloaded the Ebay app,” we wrote, “using it to buy not just books and clothes, but also a Lamborghini, a $150,000 boat, and a Bentley.”

Now Ebay is rolling out a suite of new and upgraded mobile offerings. In addition to a refreshed Ebay iPhone App and a updated mobile website (m.ebay.com), it is also debuting a new app called Deals. Read more

Richard Waters

For Google’s rivals, one the hardest things to compete with over the years has been its relentless drive to bring continual improvements to the effectiveness of its search advertising.

Every quarter comes a stream of improvements designed to boost the monetisation of search results, increasing the click-through rate and ROI for advertisers – and Google’s own profits.

It is now on the same relentless path in a new market: display advertising. Today’s news that it has bought Teracent, a private company whose technology is used to customise and target display ads, is a warning to Yahoo that the pace of innovation is picking up. Read more

Richard Waters

Mark Hurd is finally starting to look on the bright side. The boss of HP has been one of the most cautious tech CEOs in recent weeks, but when I caught up with him moments after the company put out its latest quarterly earnings today (the headline numbers were pre-announced earlier this month) he was sounding uncharacteristically relaxed.

You have to be a student of Mr Hurd’s normally dour style to understand just how optimistic he can make it sound when he says he’s feeling “a little more positive”. He said there had been a continuing rebound in the US in the latest quarter and “good sequential improvement in Asia in most markets”.

The one thing preventing Mr Hurd from feeling downright happy, in fact, is Europe. Read more