Monthly Archives: June 2010

Richard Waters

Would you have wanted to be the manager whose job it was to persuade Steve Ballmer to keep investing in Kin?

Thought not. The writing has been on the wall for this smart-ish phone for some time. The Microsoft CEO – who took direct personal responsibility for the company’s mobile business six weeks ago, on the early “retirement” of consumer products chief Robbie Bach – has now delivered the coup de grace (the story was broken today by Ina Fried at Cnet, and Microsoft confirmed to us that there will be no future versions of the device).

One message from this: Microsoft’s period of experimentation in consumer gadgets is coming to an end. Mr Ballmer is doubling down instead on the main battle ahead as he looks to buttress the Windows platform against Apple and Google. 

David Gelles

Bebo founder Michael Birch thinks that becoming a multimillionaire nearly killed him. Shortly after selling his social networking site to AOL for $850m in 2008, a long-term benign defect became dangerous

But just weeks after AOL unloaded the social networking site for pittance, Mr Birch is feeling rejuvenated. In a profile in Wednesday’s FT, technology correspondent Maija Palmer talks with Mr Birch about his health, his investments in new tech companies, and his new company incubator in San Francisco. 

Chris Nuttall

Printing and mobility generally go together like England and success in World Cups, but some results are being achieved through old-fashioned email.

I was impressed that the Los Angeles hotel I stayed at this month would automatically print anything I emailed it from my laptop. Now, Pogoplug owners will have a similar solution if they own HP or Epson printers. 

David Gelles

Foursquare, the social networking company that lets users “check in” to locations using mobile phones, has taken its first significant round of funding after acquisition talks sputtered.

The $20m series B investment was led by Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm founded by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen. Other investors include Union Square Ventures and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. The deal values Foursquare at $95m. 

If you were investing in an initial public offering, would you not want the company’s chairman, chief executive and “product architect” – the most important individual to the enterprise – at least to work full-time?

I ask this because Elon Musk, the chairman and chief executive of Tesla Motors, the electric car maker that held its Nasdaq IPO successfully on Tuesday, does not.

Mr Musk is already a controversial figure, having admitted just before the IPO that he had run out of cash as a result of investing $74m of his money into Tesla, and being in the middle of a messy divorce. His wife Justine Musk has been adding her own thoughts about Tesla on her blog

Chris Nuttall

External hard drives have traditionally trailed internals ones in their capacities, but Seagate has well and truly flipped that notion by announcing the world’s first 3-terabyte external desktop drive.

Drives have reached such unimagined capacities that it now makes sense to put a tera-drive outside a computer rather than inside, due to PC software being unable to recognise the extra space available. 

David Gelles

Ever since Facebook first rolled out its own virtual currency, developers have wondered if, when, and how the company would start encouraging the use of Credits across its enormous platform.

The answer is becoming clear, and the time is now. Facebook wants developers to start using Credits in a big way as it works to build a system similar to Apple’s iTunes, where users make lots of small purchases with a credit card kept on file.

Developers are taking the cue. CrowdStar, one of the most successful social gaming companies, just announced it will use Credits as its exclusive in-game currency for at least the next five years. 

The way is finally clear for the first formal tie-up between a Taiwanese and a Chinese chipmaker. Taiwan’s government on Monday gave approval for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, to take a 7.4 per cent stake in China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International, China’s biggest chipmaker by capacity.

The story of how SMIC was founded a decade ago by Richard Chang, a former senior TSMC executive, and how the two companies later became embroiled in a long-running trade secrets battle, is an interesting and revealing tale about China’s (largely failed) efforts to create a domestic chipmaking industry.

 

Chris Nuttall

Perhaps the most fun to be had playing a video game at the E3 trade show last week was sitting in a motor racing cockpit with 3D glasses and trying the new Gran Turismo  for PlayStation 3.

The photorealism and visual and force-feedback effects were astonishing. And yet my favourite racing game currently – in a crowded field – remains another Sony game -ModNation Racers.  

Chris Nuttall

This week saw the release of new operating systems by Apple and Google – iOS4 and Android 2.2 – and the launch of two new phones – iPhone 4 and the second-generation Droid X.

In Friday’s Personal Technology column in the FT, we look at the astonishing growth of the smartphone category and the capabilities of its latest entrants.