Monthly Archives: July 2013

From the FT’s Charles Clover in Moscow:

Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom has ordered a custom-built, $3.7m gadget for its chief executive Alexei Miller to help him run the company, according to tender documents posted on the company’s website on Tuesday.

Gazprom says that the bespoke device is not just a run-of-the-mill tablet computer, but an “integrated workstation” for Mr Miller. The company is frequently under fire for spending too much money on everything from the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi to steel pipe. Read more

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has pulled the music of his latest band Atoms for Peace from Spotify, accusing the streaming service paying musicians too little.

New artists “will no[t] get paid. meanwhile shareholders will shortly being rolling in it,” Yorke told his 400,000-odd Twitter followers.

That’s unwelcome PR for Spotify, the Swedish start-up that seemed to be getting the music industry onside with streaming, rather than downloads, as a viable model for serving up music to fans. Given that the service fails to make a profit even at current royalty rates, is its model in question? Read more

Richard Waters

Daphne Koller, one the founders of Coursera, makes no bones about the global ambition of her online higher education start-up. Thanks to huge interest in moocs (masssive open online courses) in countries like the US and UK, she says, there’s “an incredible opportunity opening up for us” to get big fast.

So why wait years to go global when investors are queuing up to push the money into your hands right now? Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Dropbox chief executive Drew Houston didn’t mention iCloud once during his presentation at the cloud storage company’s first ever developer conference on Tuesday. But as Dropbox rolls out its new platform tools – allowing apps to synchronise not just files and folders but progress in games, realtime sketches or any other kind of data from one device to another – it’s clear that Apple was the unnamed competitor that Mr Houston has to take on. Read more

Bids are expected by the end of this week for Hulu, the online video site owned by Disney’s ABC, News Corp’s Fox and Comcast’s NBC that is said to be looking for a price tag around the $1bn mark.

Its status as an aggregator of some of the most popular professionally-produced content on the web has reportedly attracted a host of suitors, from traditional distributors such as DirecTV to Peter Chernin, who helped found Hulu while at News Corp, and Guggenheim Digital Media, the well-funded Guggenheim Partners offshoot run by Ross Levinsohn, formerly of Yahoo. Some seem to be talking the price down, claiming unhappiness about the sellers’ terms.

Guggenheim has also been eyeing another of the biggest digital video properties, Vevo. It is more than two months since it was reported to be in negotiations about taking a controlling stake, but talk about Vevo’s future has since gone rather quiet. Read more

Illustration by Toby Leigh of a robot babysitter©Toby Leigh

If ever you start to fret about being replaced by a robot in some Terminator-style apocalypse, look up a YouTube video entitled “PR2 Autonomously Pairing Socks”. The two-minute clip from a University of California, Berkeley research project in 2011 shows a robot identifying the two matching pairs from five socks. After carefully flattening the socks to inspect their shape and pattern, it checks they’re not inside out, then couples them.

It’s an impressive feat of robot engineering, of course. But for some it will be quite comforting that this task, dispatched in seconds by us humans, takes the $280,000 Willow Garage PR2 robot fully half an hour.

 Read more

To Tim Westergren, Pandora’s co-founder, Apple’s iTunes Radio is just another “Pandora-killer” that will be less deadly than it first appears. A once wobbly Wall Street now seems to agree: Pandora’s shares have doubled this year – and were up another 8 per cent on Monday morning – as investors focus not on competitive threats or grumbling artists but on growth opportunities such as integrating its internet radio service into cars. Read more