Maija Palmer

Tandberg video conferencingCisco’s $3bn bid for Tandberg has made everyone sit up and take notice of video conferencing. It is only little over a week since HP launched its new SkyRoom video conferencing product for desktop computers. HP’s Halo already competes with Cisco at the high end of the telepresence market, with elaborate camera and meeting room systems which come close to simulating real-life meetings. Now, with the Tandberg acquisition and SkyRoom, both companies are looking to serve all segments of the market from high end to mass market. Microsoft has also developed teleconferencing services similar to Cisco and HP. Read more

Maija Palmer

Opera Mini 5Opera upped its efforts in the mobile browser wars on Wednesday with the release of the next version of its Mini browser – Opera Mini 5. The new version comes with a sleek new look, and features such as speed dials and tabbed browsing.

The Norwegian browser company still enjoys the top spot in the mobile market, with 25 per cent market share according to Statcounter. This puts it still just ahead of iPhone’s Safari browser, with 22.3 per cent.

But the competition is tightening. Mozilla is working on its own mobile browser, Fennec, while Research In Motion recently bought Torch Mobile to improve its browsing capability.  Microsoft is also understood to be improving its Internet Explorer Mobile browserRead more

Maija Palmer

Kai Fu LeeKai-Fu Lee’s time as president of Google China began with controversy, as Microsoft sued the search company for poaching him, then faced a countersuit by Google. His departure was a severe blow for Microsoft’s Chinese operations, and brought out the depth of the animosity between the two companies.

Mr Lee’s impending departure from Google has also sparked debate – not least because it is still unclear exactly why he is leaving and what he is going on to do.   Read more

Maija Palmer

Xperia Pureness

The trend for mobile phones these days is for lots of functions - internet, music, radio, social networking. Its all about being young, fun and dynamic, with mobile phone companies vying to produce the trendiest adverts usually featuring a driving dance beat and beautiful people with cool haircuts.

In this context, Sony Ericsson has come up with a surprise. On Thursday it unveiled the “Pureness”, which can only be described as the “anti-smartphone”. Read more

Maija Palmer

Google logoGoogle’s European Zeitgeist event this year has been nicknamed “the Royal one” as it was attended not only by the usual business heavyweights like Vivendi’s Jean-Bernard Lévy and Richard Branson but by Prince Charles of the UK, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Prince Philip of Spain.

The presence of royalty is not as strange as it might initially seem. Much of Zeitgeist revolves around discussions on how to save the planet, and this is a project that many otherwise under-employed European royals have embraced.

Perhaps these aristocrats also see a kindred spirit in Google, the king of the internet. Oh if only it weren’t for those tedious elected governments, those dull regulations, how much easier it would be to make the world work better. Read more

Maija Palmer

Ebay logoDespite the €1bn fine handed to Intel by the European Commission, it wasn’t all bad news for US tech companies in Europe on Wednesday. Ebay won a lawsuit in the French courts over sales of fake L’Oréal perfume on its auction site. A court specialised in trademark law ruled that Ebay was merely a host site for the sales of counterfeit goods and not a party to their sale. It also said Ebay, which has a $10m a year budget for fighting online crime, was doing all it could to combat fakes. Read more

Maija Palmer

Intel logoIntel has come out fighting, after being slapped with a record €1.06bn fine by the EU for anti-competitive practices. Paul Otellini, chief executive, responded almost instantly with a statement that Intel planned to appeal.

“Intel takes strong exception to this decision,” he said. So the Brussels lawyers and the computer industry can now look forward to a protracted battle before there is any sort of finality to this.

The fine is certainly enormous, dwarfing even the sums Microsoft has had to pay. However, it’s not clear how much this ruling will really change. Read more

Maija Palmer

Phorm logoFor a little while it looked like things were looking up for Phorm, the internet advertising technology company. There had been a year of controversy about the company’s technology which monitors internet users web surfing behaviour at the ISP level – a technique known as “deep packet inspection”, which has raised accusations of spying with some privacy activists.

But at the beginning of the year, things went quiet.  There were a few positive statements about targeted advertising from UK officials like Stephen Carter, and the company launched a trial with KT, the Korean broadband provider.

Now, suddenly, the controversy is raging again. Read more

Maija Palmer

Phorm logoThere was a certain weariness about Kent Ertugrul, the chief executive of Phorm, as he took questions at the advertising technology company’s second town hall meeting in London on Tuesday night.

The company, which provides technology that matches advertising to web browsers interests,  has now gone through more than a year of trying to damp down allegations of spying and violations of privacy. Read more

Maija Palmer

Among the organisations adding their tuppenceworth to the Digital Britain consultation is the Business Software Alliance, the industry body that represents software companies and tries to make sure they get paid all their licence fees.

Part of the suggestions about Digital Britain have been for there to be a clampdown on music and video piracy, especially peer to peer filesharing. The BSA wants to make sure software piracy is not forgotten. Read more

Maija Palmer

YouTube logoGoogle has waded into another row over music royalty rights in Europe, this time in Germany. Again, it has shut off premium music videos on the YouTube service as it negotiates with the local rights agency, Gema, over how much it has to pay for each video. It did the same thing in the UK two weeks ago.

Like any payment dispute, this is grubby. The rights agencies want more money for their musicians and songwriters. Google wants to pay less – preferably a flat fee – and argues that YouTube doesn’t make enough money to pay any more. Read more

Maija Palmer

24-7 Entertainment

The digital music industry went into “shuffle” mode again on Wednesday, when Metro, the German retailer, said its Media-Saturn unit had acquired a controlling stake in 24-7 Entertainment, a UK-based distributor of digital music. Digital music, like social networking sites and internet operations, are being subsumed into more traditional businesses.

24-7 is a rival to Apple’s iTunes, and runs 41 download stores in 13 countries, including running the music stores for mobile operators like TDC of Denmark and supporting Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow service. Read more

Maija Palmer

spying

Privacy activists have had a busy few weeks. First there was Google’s announcement that it would start using behavioural targeting for its display advertising, which had them up in arms. The following week Google launched Street View, the controversial 3D mapping feature, in the UK, again drawing protest. The latest concern is over revelations that the UKgovernment is thinking of monitoring social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo as part of its anti-terrorism measures.

 

There is already an EU directive on monitoring emails and internet usage, requiring internet service providers to store traffic data for 12 months. Since the July 2005 the UK government has been keen to broaden the scope of the ways it can monitor for terrorists. This latest proposal is to extend this to social networking sites, which have become hugely popular after the proposals were first formulated.

  Read more

Maija Palmer

Vodafone logo Where Apple leads, mobile companies will follow, it seems. Vodafone said on Wednesday that it would remove copyright protection on over 1m of the songs it sells through its mobile music store. The company has agreements with three of the “Big Four” music companies – Univeral Music Group, Sony, and EMI – but talks with Warner have been slower.

Its likely Warner will agree in due course, as recently all four of the music majors agreed a similar deal with Apple. Read more

Maija Palmer

2012 logoSustainability is a watchword for the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics. Their aim is to make these the “greenest” games to date. Atos Origin, the key technology supplier for the Olympics is attempting to do its part.

“We are looking to reduce the amount of hardware, power consumption, air conditioning and space needed,” said Michele Hyron, Atos Origin’s chief integrator for the Olympics. The Beijing Games required some 10,000 computers and 50m sheets of paper. Ms Hyron said she hoped to reduce these levels “dramatically” in London. Read more

Maija Palmer

It has been a week of regulatory decisions on internet privacy issues.

The UK’s Office of the Information Commissioner has given the go-ahead for Phorm, the targeted advertising company to start trials with BT. While the ICO statement of this is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the service, it doesn’t raise any insurmountable concerns. Phorm is still under close scrutiny, but for now, allowed to go ahead. Read more

Maija Palmer

Phorm logoAny company hoping to launch targeted advertising services should be watching the fate of UK start-up Phorm with great interest. In particular, they should take note of what this says about the public’s double standards on privacy.

Phorm is trying to build a new ad platform, serving ads targeted around users’ internet habits and interests. It is hoping to make this acceptable to the general public with reassurances that no personally identifiable information is kept or stored as part of the process. Read more

Maija Palmer

The dusty world of technical standards setting is full of excitement and intrigue again as 120 delegates from 37 countries convene in Geneva to discuss whether to accept Microsoft’s new Open Office XML software as an international open standard under the International Standards Organisation.

Standard-setting does not normally arouse much interest. It’s usually a group of five or six engineers in a small room voting on an incremental modification to a piece of code few people are even aware exists. But this time the stakes are high – especially for Microsoft, which could stand to lose out on a great deal of business if it does not get the ISO seal of approval. Read more

Maija Palmer

These days, no big industry conference is complete without a good deal of public posturing over global warming, and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week is no exception. Nokia, the world’s largest mobile handset maker, and China Mobile, the world’s largest operator, have both jumped on the eco-bandwagon.

Wang Jianzhou, the chief executive of China Mobile, told delegates that companies had to take responsibility for climate change. China Mobile itself is taking action by collecting old mobile handsets, building mobile base stations that run on solar and wind power, and buying low-energy equipment from suppliers. They clearly want to be seen to be doing their bit ahead of the Beijing Olympics. Read more

Maija Palmer

The way to achieve a certain mystique for a mobile product is to not attend trade shows like the Mobile World Congress. Last year Apple stayed away, but the iPhone was the word on everyone’s lips. This year Android is the new, much discussed, threat to the establishment and Google’s presence is minimal – especially as Andy Rubin, head of the Android project, had to suddenly race back to the US, cancelling planned demos of the software. Was it really an emergency calling him back – or is it just the new style of brandbuillding?