Monthly Archives: August 2010

One of the trickiest challenges for a company is continuous innovation – to keep updating and refreshing its products when the excitement of a product launch is past – so I take my hat off to Google.

In contrast to Microsoft, which in the past let products such as Internet Explorer and Hotmail get overtaken by newer rivals, Google is devoted to updating its online software suite, including Gmail and other applications including Google Calendar.

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Like the slideshows they display, digital photo frames have been going through a number of transitions.

From single-purpose devices, they have changed to screens that not only show photos but also can wake you up with a weather report and a stock quote. With Kodak’s Pulse frame, the move is back to a purer, simpler concept, backed by cloud-based intelligence. Read more

While many online retail start-ups use traditional discount tactics, today’s Lex writes that there may be an easier way: “Facebook is in a good position. Selling valuable consumer information is far easier than actually trying to use it.”

Read the rest of “Online Retailing”

How well do you look after your laptop? Never dropped it or spilt coffee on it? Keep it safe in a neoprene sleeve?

The Panasonic Toughbook F9 might not be for you then,  but this ruggedised laptop reviewed in the Personal Technology column of the FT’s Business Life section is also exceptionally light considering its wide screen and has excellent battery life. Read more

Any number of tablet rivals to Apple’s iPad will be launched, running Windows or Android operating systems or even both, at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin next week.

We’ll be there to give you the details, but if you can’t wait for a tablet running Windows, then a new app from DeviceVM turns the iPad itself into a Flash-playing Windows machine. Read more

The outlook for consumer PC sales for the rest of the year is getting murkier and murkier. A drop-off in US sales in July, followed by continued weakness in early August despite the traditionally bountiful back-to-school season, has already started ringing alarm bells among analysts.


Now there’s additional evidence, from the world’s biggest notebook casing manufacturer, that any quick uplift in end demand is unlikely . Ju Teng makes the outer shell of a notebook – a manufacturing process that involves more than 300 steps and 400 different materials – for all the world’s top PC brands.

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The website Orkut is displayed on a screen in a cybercafe in BrasiliaFacebook seems to be everywhere these days: it reached half a billion users in July, its value is soaring and the inevitable film is coming out in October.

While the site has become synonymous with social networking in the US and Europe, the story is very different in Brazil, where Google’s Orkut is king of the hill. But as Brazilians become more globally connected, Facebook is making inroads into Latin America’s largest economy. Read more

Dell on Tuesday began selling its first US smartphone, a model using an older version of Google’s Android operating system and seen as a lower-end entry that will be followed by more sophisticated models.

The Dell Aero joins a throng of competitors, even among Android phones, which now collectively outsell Apple’s iPhone. Read more

Netgear is set to announce 11 new products next week, all on the theme of helping consumers move or stream digital content onto their TVs.

A router, switch, media players, powerline technology and various adapters are being officially unveiled on Tuesday by the networking specialist. Read more

A second credible Taiwanese publication has weighed in with a report that Apple will introduce a 7″-screen iPad mini for the winter holidays.

The Chinese-language account in Economic Daily News, summarised by IDG here, follows a similar DigiTimes article and names multiple suppliers said to have won contracts, though they declined to comment themselves. Read more

HP may have topped Dell in the bidding war for 3Par, but today’s Lex note argues, “HP may trump its rival– but to do so it has put a valuation on 3Par that is, frankly, bonkers.”

Lex writes, “Trouble is, 3Par has not made an operating profit in five years. Fixed assets at the end of last year were worth just $58m. On sales of $235m in the year to March 2011, analysts expect 3Par to generate $21m of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. HP intends to pay almost 80 times those profits.” Read more

Network-attached storage (NAS) is more familiar to IT departments than consumers, but the benefits can be enjoyed in the home if providers can explain the concept better to individual users.

In the latest Personal Technology column in the FT’s Business Life section, we look at the efforts of Dane-Elec with its MyDitto device,  which it claims is the world’s first true “plug and play” home server. Read more

Intel and Nokia have announced the University of Oulu in Finland, which has expertise in 3D interfaces, will be the home of their first joint research lab.

The news is an indication of progress on software in the partnership announced in June last year between the biggest chipmaker and handset maker, but there remains no evidence yet of the exciting new hardware that was promised. Read more

Since Apple bought Quattro Wireless last year, it has continued to offer that company’s services placing banner advertisements on smartphones even as it ramped up work on iAds, the fancier iPhone-only marketing with interaction and video.

No more. The former Quattro CEO who is now an Apple VP, Andy Miller, told customers this week that Quattro will stop taking new orders at the end of September and devote all its attention to iAds. Read more

Hewlett-Packard will bring out a tablet-style computer running Windows after all.

That was the word today from HP’s third-quarter earnings call, which should reverse speculation around the time of HP’s Palm acquisition–and its accompanying enthusiasm for Palm’s WebOS mobile operating system–that the company was killing the Windows slate.

“You’ll see us with a Microsoft product out in the near future and a WebOS-based product out in 2011″, said HP personal computer division head Todd Bradley. Read more

If you’ve been having trouble keeping up with Angelina, Brad and Jen on your iPad, then today is a day for rejoicing. People magazine has launched its iPad app, and its Sandra Bullock cover story (“The sexy single mom happily moves on – as ex Jesse James is spotted in Vegas with another woman,” etc.) looks very slick on it, too.

Why does this matter? First, consumer magazines don’t come bigger than People, so this will be a big test of the theory that tablet devices, with their page-flicking qualities and glossy rendering of images, hold particular promise for magazines.

But Rich Greenfield at BTIG Research has spotted something equally significant: existing print subscribers to the Time Inc-owned publication will be able to access People on the iPad for no extra cost. Read more

As my colleague David Gelles wrote earlier today, Facebook has finally announced its long-expected location service, Places. It’s only available in the US so far but the rest of the world should be getting it through Facebook’s iPhone app and touchscreen site in the next few months.

Places provides very similar a service to the “check in” function provided by Foursquare – which turned down a Facebook takeover earlier this year – but with Facebook’s trademark simplicity and clean design. The main enhancement is that Facebook users can tell the site when their friends are with them at a bar or school, in the same way they can tag them in photos.

It’s a big moment for Facebook, but also for the check-in itself, which alongside the Like button is quickly becoming one of the internet’s most common ways to interact. As well as Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and other location-based services, you can now check-in to the TV show you’re watching (through Miso) or even the dinner you’re eating (thorough Foodspotting). Read more

A year after Yahoo and Microsoft finally agreed to combine their search efforts, the result is showing up.
Starting this week, natural searches on Yahoo from the US and Canada will begin being “powered” by Bing, the Microsoft search engine. Paid search results are still on track to be delivered by Microsoft this autumn, Yahoo executives said Tuesday, unless quality issues force a delay past the winter holidays.
Most users won’t be able to tell the difference, but the relevance should be better, said Yahoo vice president Shashi Seth. Read more

Back in February we reported on a truly unsavoury story of compromised privacy in the digital age. School administrators outside Philadelphia had issued new laptops to 1,800 students, then used the webcams to remotely spy on the students.

A student sued and weeks later, when a separate criminal investigation was announced, we said that “The Lower Merion School District is not going to get off with just a slap on the wrist.”

Turns out Federal prosecutors had a different opinion. This morning they announced that no charges will be brought against the school district or its employees, according to the Associated PressRead more

From John Gapper’s Business Blog

As the ousting of Mark Hurd as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard starts to fade from the headlines, one aspect of it lingers in my mind – the Google search. Read more