Monthly Archives: August 2010

Google’s momentum in smartphones is not likely to stop at just overtaking Apple’s iPhone in terms of global sales, according to analysts from Taipei-based Digitimes Research, who are predicting that Android sales will jump to number two above Research In Motion’s BlackBerry before the end of the year.

Gartner, the research group, last week said Android’s global share in smartphones had jumped from 1.8 per cent a year ago to 17.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2010.  This put it ahead of Apple’s iOS operating system, which had a 14.2 per cent share, but still behind RIM’s 18.2 per cent global market share.  Read more

David Gelles

Facebook has just invited us to an event on Wednesday afternoon at which the company “will provide an update on the service’s features and products.”

Sounds like a product launch, and Facebook is likely to unveil some features that will help it defend its turf from Google’s imminent social networking push.

At the top of the list of features Facebook watchers are anticipating: Places. Read more

Paul Taylor

While the public has become alarmed at the levels of surveillance from technology such as Google’s Street View and security cameras, individuals can take comfort from the latest remote webcams designed for personal protection.

In the Personal Technology column in the FT’s Business Life section, we look at the new Logitech Alert range of  indoor and outdoor video security cameras aimed at safeguarding homes and monitoring the well-being of occupants, such as babies and aged relatives. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

As Google gears up its social push, attracting the right games to its platform will be critical. So the search giant will welcome the endorsement of Playfish, and with it, parent company Electronic Arts, for its plans in Google Me.

I met Sebastien de Halleux, co-founder of Playfish and now also VP for strategic partnerships at EA Interactive, in London on Friday. Nine months after its $300m-plus acquisition by EA, Playfish is growing faster than it can hire, and Mr de Halleux remains effervescent about the potential for taking console franchises such as Fifa Soccer onto the web.

But he wasn’t so thrilled about Facebook’s current attitude towards games developers, and welcomed the prospect of a stiffer competitor in the form of Google. Read more

Richard Waters

Apple’s $46bn cash mountain is a source of frustration that is now “bordering on exasperation” for the company’s shareholders. So says Toni Sacconaghi of Sanford C Bernstein, one of Wall Street’s most respected hardware analysts, in an open letter to the company.

But don’t expect Apple to bow quickly to calls to start paying a dividend or otherwise distribute the money. Steve Jobs said earlier this year that having the cash on hand gives Apple huge strategic flexibility. And Wall Street seldom seems bothered by how tech companies deploy their excess cash – as Microsoft has found since it got religion about disciplined cash management some years ago.

Full letter after the break. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

When news broke earlier this week that Twitter was going to launch its own “tweet button”, many were quick to predict the death of TweetMeme, which already provides similar badges to many websites.

But while the British start-up has ceded its own retweet button (750m served every day, until now), it has if anything emerged stronger, with a rare deal, to reach into the heart of the realtime Twitter “firehose” – and build a new set of services on top of the micro-communications service.

If TweetMeme’s positive spin on losing its most visible piece of marketing is right, and it’s got low-cost, preferential access to Twitter’s data, it sets a benchmark that TweetDeck, Twitpic, Bit.ly, TweetUp and many other third-party developers might hope to emulate, as Twitter sucks up features and applications previously provided by its ecosystem. Read more

Richard Waters

Compromise does not sit well with idealistic principles. So really, Google has little cause to feel mistreated over the very negative reaction to its net neutrality pact with Verizon (from public interest groups, and from competitors) and its latest blog post today sounds highly defensive.

It’s just naive to assume that an agreement like this between two giant companies will not be seen as an attempt to carve up a market. After all, companies are meant to negotiate in their own self-interest. So if the two leaders in their respective markets can reach a mutually agreed compromise, it stands to reason that the position they arrive at will advocate regulation where it is least likely to affect them directly – and greater freedoms where they most want them. Read more

David Gelles

In Silicon Valley, success breeds imitation. Witness the glut of doomed e-commerce sites during the Dot Com bubble or, more recently, the plethora of mafia-themed social games on Facebook.

The latest hot trend is group buying. By offering daily deals for restaurants and local businesses, a handful of companies have become profitable middlemen between deal-hungry consumers and businesses looking for new patrons.

Groupon has the early lead, with operations in 80 markets and $135m in fresh funding. It also has plenty of clones — from LivingSocial Deals to Woot to BuyWithMe. Now add another one to the list — Zagat. Read more

David Gelles

Big companies’ Facebook pages are getting more sophisticated all the time.

At first they were simple placeholders to remind Facebook users that a brand was hip to social networking. Then, as social media caught on, they became interactive collaborations between companies and consumers. Soon, the first fully functional storefronts appeared, allowing users to buy flowers and shoes with real, not virtual currency.

Now Delta has upped the ante. Starting today, you can buy airplane tickets on Facebook. Read more

From the FT’s beyondbrics blog

By Christian Oliver and Song Jung-a in Seoul Read more

While experts agreed with HP on Hurd’s resignation, today’s Lex note argues that “the safe decision is not always the right one.”

Lex writes, “Mr Hurd was, by most accounts, a superb executive. HP’s shares had outperformed the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite ninefold since he took over in 2005 and net income grew handsomely.” Read more

Paul Taylor

‘Place-shifting’ technology, pioneered by companies like Sling Media with its SlingBox and SlingPlayer Mobile service, has proved popular with consumers but has not always lived up to expectations when the content is streamed and the end user device is a smartphone.

Now however AT&T, the US telecommunications group, has rolled out a new free iPhone and Blackberry Torch app that it claims will enable subscribers to its U-verse IPTV service to download and watch select TV episodes on their device over a Wi-Fi network as well as schedule DVR recordings. Read more

From John Gapper’s Business blog

Net neutrality was always a slippery concept, which may account for the fact that the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have such different accounts of talks between Google and Verizon over the vexed subject. Read more

Richard Waters

Given the questions that have arisen over the extent of his ethical lapses – and the fact that he was cleared of the most most serious claim against him, involving sexual harassment – it’s not surprising that Mark Hurd’s supporters are starting to come forward.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison just unburdened himself of a typically outspoken reaction in an email to The New York Times. It includes this zinger: Read more

Chris Nuttall

Skype’s filing for an initial public offering on Monday comes as the communications service is reaching a new level of maturity.

Skype is available on a growing number of devices as rivals such as Apple’s FaceTime struggle to establish meaningful connections with customers and other services. Read more

From the FT’s beyondbrics blog
The debate on protectionism in the US took an ugly turn last week when Charles Schumer, a New York Senator, likened India’s Infosys, an IT giant, to a ‘chop shop’.

What was the Democratic Senator trying to say? A chop shop is a place where stolen cars are dismantled so their parts can be resold. As a description of one of India’s most well-respected companies, the best you can say is that Schumer’s comment was misguided. Read more

Paul Taylor

The BlackBerry Torch is the first touch-enabled slider phone from Research In Motion and the first to feature its new operating system, BlackBerry 6.

But does this mean that the BlackBerry is a match for the latest Android smartphones and the iPhone 4? We have a hands-on look at the BlackBerry Torch in the Personal Technology section of this week’s Business Life in the FT. Read more

Richard Waters

One of the most interesting changes to Google’s approach to new services has been its willingness to kill them quickly when things aren’t going in the right direction.

It happened with Nexus One, and now it has happened with Wave – probably Google’s two most significant projects of the past couple of years, if you consider the breadth of the ambition (to remake the way mobile phones are distributed, and to revolutionise email). Can Buzz be far behind? Read more

Paul Taylor

Software that automatically transcribes speech it hears still seems to have a long way to go judging by the inaccuracy of voicemail transcriptions on Google Voice and similar services.

But it can be a different story and a better read if the software is trained to know your voice, as in the new version of Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking, reviewed in the latest Personal Technology column in the FT’s Business Life section Read more

Joseph Menn

It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for Apple on the security front.

In the latest bit of bad news, a flaw in the way that iPhones and other devices running iOS show Adobe and other PDF files is allowing Websites that display specially crafted PDFs to take control of the gadgets.

So far, the best-known site using the technique, called jailbreakme, is only acting as a public service: iPhone owners who visit and click a button can free their phones from AT&T’s network and to install applications that aren’t sanctioned by Apple. Read more