Monthly Archives: May 2010

Robin Kwong

Well that didn’t take long.  Just a few days after Apple’s iPad hit international markets, both Asus and MSI, the Taiwanese PC brands best known for their netbooks, on Monday unveiled their respective versions of the tablet PC ahead of Computex

They weren’t the only ones, either.  Gianfranco Lanci, Acer chief executive, beat both his competitors to the mark by showing a glimpse of Acer’s tablet PC at a Beijing press conference last week.  So what to make of all these competing devices?  Several things stood out, after the jump: Read more

Robin Kwong

At some point tech executives will come to realise that just because Apple succeeded on the back of its applications store, it does not necessarily mean the same formula will work for everyone else.

That day, however, has certainly yet to come in Taiwan.  Not only do all three of the island’s mobile operators have their own, separate app store (two of which opened shop within the past month), but Asus, the netbook pioneer, on Monday also announced it would set up its own app store. Read more

Robin Kwong

Computex, the world’s second-biggest IT trade fair, does not officially start until Tuesday but already the hype about which tablet personal computer will challenge the iPad as the hottest product of the year is in full swing.

The chief executive of Nvidia, the specialist graphics card company that is also a big supplier of chips for tablet PCs, kicked things off by making the prediction that within five years “tablets will be the world’s biggest computing category”. Jen-hsun Huang said tablets could even surpass netbooks and notebook PCs in terms of volume. Read more

Maija Palmer

Facebook logoGiven the recent furore over the confusing privacy controls on Facebook, you would have thought that “Quit Facebook Day”, scheduled for Monday May 31, would be proving more popular. So far fewer than 25,000 people have signed up to the site set up by two Canadian web developers, pledging to delete their accounts from the social networking site.

Given that Facebook has somewhere around 500m users, these disgruntled leavers represent a minuscule fraction - 0.00005 per cent -  probably well within the normal levels of user churn. It seems, either Facebook’s latest attempts to improve its privacy controls have reassured the general public, or the vast majority of users don’t care enough about the issue to leave the site. Read more

David Gelles

Two days after Facebook unveiled simplified privacy controls, the furore over its perceived missteps is not dying down.

On Friday Congressman John Conyers, head of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Facebook asking it to cooperate with federal regulators looking into its privacy policies. Mr Conyers also sent a similar letter to Google, which is facing scrutiny after it admitted collecting wifi data.

Mr Conyers’ letter followed a conference call on Thursday during which several privacy advocates who had given Facebook credit for their effort on Wednesday took a harder line against the company and called for federal regulation of social networking sites. Read more

This is a guest post by the FT’s media editor, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson

Fleet Street has hyped the iPad’s international launch as loudly as any smitten blogger, but if Britain’s newspaper owners believe that Apple’s tablet promises them salvation they were not rushing to demonstrate it on Friday.

The Guardian already had a photojournalism application ready before the  international launch, but the only UK paper to unveil a new iPad app was The Times, which only days ago unveiled a new websiteRead more

Comparing the blockbuster Wired magazine application for the Apple iPad to other magazines on the device is faintly silly given its far greater size and ambition. You can get an idea of it from the promotional video below.

The Wired app is the closest thing the iPad yet has to a vision of how magazines could be transformed, and it has the bulk to prove it. It contains nearly half a gigabyte of data, including two clips from the new Toy Story film, and took me 10 minutes down download it over a WiFi connection.

But, as the the iPad goes on sale in nine countries outside the US – including the UK, France, Germany and Japan – the Wired app puts its competitors to shame, including GQ and Vanity Fair, two other Conde Nast titles that are more confused and less interesting. Read more

Paul Taylor

The first fourth-generation cellphone in the US – the HTC Evo on Sprint’s WiMax network – is a fast, video-rich smartphone that can turn itself into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Read our Personal Technology review from the Business Life section of Friday’s FT:

“Even without its 4G mobile broadband capabilities, HTC’s Android-powered EVO 4G smartphone is an impressive touchscreen-based handset because it combines many of the best features found in other devices to produce what could start a whole new category, which might possibly be called ‘superphones’.”

 Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Who needs another shiny rectangle in their lives?

Plenty of people, if the queues outside Apple stores worldwide was anything to go by.

I was at Apple‘s London flagship shop on Regent Street this morning to ask people why they’d waited for hours to splash upwards of £429 on an iPad: Read more

To his credit, Mark Zuckerberg has responded to the outcry over privacy, including my column on the subject, by making significant changes to Facebook’s privacy policies.

The most welcome aspects of the changes, discussed by him on the Facebook blog, are that it will be far simpler for a user to control how information is shared, and these choices will apply to future Facebook services. Read more

Robin Kwong

Acer user interface

Speed has long been one of the secrets behind the success of Acer, the Taiwanese company that is now the world’s biggest seller of notebook PCs. 

Last April, they moved aggressively into the so-called ‘ultra thin’ notebook category by announcing plans for 30 models within the year.  At last year’s Computex trade fair, Acer became the first to unveil a prototype notebook running on Google’s Android operating system.

Now, within days after Google announced its grand plans for taking over our living rooms with Google TV, Acer said Thursday it plans to perform a similar feat using something it calls the ‘’.  Apparently this year they couldn’t even wait for Computex, which opens next week, to make the announcement. Read more

Joseph Menn

Yahoo will put social gaming leader Zynga’s Farmville and other distractions on its pages as it tries to revive flagging user engagement and generate more ad revenue, chief executive Carol Bartz said Wednesday.

At a conference for investors and analysts at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters, Ms Bartz and other executive said they were concerned about the drop in minutes spent on Yahoo pages per user, but promised an array of fixes. Read more

The wave of suicides at the vast plant near Shenzhen owned by Foxconn, the Taiwan contract manufacturer, where 300,000 workers are employed, raises questions about the sustainability of China’s use of migrant workers from rural areas.

The FT was allowed unusual access inside the Foxconn plant in Longhua, which has in the past been kept out of view of reporters, and Kathrin Hille’s video interviews with Foxconn employees, as well as the company’s spokesman, are fascinating. Read more

As the spate of suicides continues at Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that manufactures electronics for the likes of Apple and Dell, David Pilling examines the darker crevices of China’s factory system.

Many factories treat their employees as fodder, refusing to employ people because they are too short, too ugly, too old – 30 is over-the-hill – or simply come from the “wrong” province. They rush through orders, even if that means workers are not properly trained on machines that can – and sometimes do – slice off a finger. They demand employees work long hours, though most are only too happy to do so because of the overtime pay they receive. They often keep back a month of pay, lest their workers find a boyfriend, or a better job, in another factory.

 Read more

Chris Nuttall

Apple has done more than any company to promote touch as a way of interacting with devices, but Microsoft showed on Tuesday it could go literally above and beyond the screen in future displays.

In a keynote speech at the Society for Information Display’s SID 2010 annual conference in Seattle, Steve Bathiche, research director in Microsoft’s Applied Sciences group, showed not only the usual futuristic concept video of screens appearing on every surface, but also previewed some working demonstrations of its new technology for the first time. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Two weeks before soccer’s World Cup kicks off a 3D content extravaganza, the TV players have been updating their industry on how they are eyeing the prize of winning consumers over to the new technology.

Sony and Panasonic were in ebullient mood at the Society for Information Display’s conference (SID 2010) here in Seattle on Monday, while analysts from the co-organisers DisplaySearch acted as referees, suggesting they calm it down a bit. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

The time is near for putting to the test Rupert Murdoch’s rhetoric about the value of digital journalism and the evils of Google.

The Times and the Sunday Times will unveil their new (separate) websites to the public “imminently” – perhaps as soon as Tuesday. Within four weeks, the paywall barriers will be raised. All but the homepage will be invisible to those refusing to pay £1 a day – and that includes Google’s spiders. Read more

David Gelles

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has just penned an editorial for the Washington Post, answering his critics and announcing that changes are on the way.

Mr Zuckerberg writes of two substantive changes coming soon — drastically simplified privacy settings, and an easy way to opt-out of third party services such as the recently launched Instant Personalisation feature. These changes are in line with what we reported on Saturday, when we revealed plans for Facebook’s “master control.”

Mr Zuckerberg, who has been criticised for not being more forthcoming in recent weeks, took responsibility for his company’s overreach. “The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information,” he wrote. “Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark.” Read more

Paul Taylor

In this Friday’s Personal Tech column in the FT’s Business Life, we look at the best headphones and in-ear devices to attach to your MP3 players and cellphones:

“I may not have the ears of a true audiophile, but I do know that a good set of headphones or in-ear monitors (high-quality earbuds) can make all the difference. That is particularly true if you listen to high-quality “lossless” digital music files that preserve the full sound quality of the original recording.”

 Read more

You won’t find it on YouTube (a message explains that “licensing and permissions issues” prevent Google’s video site from showing the full event ) but Thursday’s unveiling of Google TV featured a demonstration by Bryan Perez, general manager of NBA Digital, writes FT Media Editor Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson.

A third-party content developer in a tech-heavy line-up at the Google I/O developer conference , Perez showed how fans could use the basketball association’s application on their internet-enabled televisions to see video highlights, check scores and fantasy leagues, browse schedules or save games to their DVRs. Read more