Richard Waters

The US may be moving only slowly towards opening up its airspace to commercial drones, but a market for unmanned aerial vehicles is already emerging rapidly elsewhere. Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures are the latest to jump in, with a $10.7m investment in drone technology company Airware. Read more

How profoundly will the new computing platform loosely known as “the cloud” disrupt the business software empires of companies like SAP and Oracle?

SAP went on the offensive this week, with the news that it would start running software for its customers in its own data centres. Hasso Plattner, SAP’s chairman and the man with the best claim to the title of Europe’s software visionary, called it the biggest thing from the German company since its flagship business applications software put it on the map 20 years ago.

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Richard Waters

Why you would click a button labelled “start” to turn something off has never been entirely clear.

But for hundreds of millions of PC users, the start button in the bottom left corner of the Windows screen has been an invaluable navigation tool – which is why Microsoft looks to be on the verge of reversing course over Windows 8 and bringing it back. Read more

Richard Waters

There was a major disconnect on display at the FT’s Digital Media conference in London on Thursday morning.

Jeff Bewkes of Time Warner and Thomas Rabe of Bertelsmann made it sound as though any-time, any-place access to media was ushering in a golden age comparable to the birth of broadcasting. But Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP had a wake-up call: Big Media is being complacent, and the real impact of companies like Google and Facebook has yet to be felt. Read more

Richard Waters

A new technology platform needs new apps. And new apps need funding.

So it is that two of Silicon Valley’s best-known venture capital firms – Kleiner Perkins and Andreessen Horowitz – have got together with Google Ventures to offer money to developers working on ideas for Google Glass. According to Kleiner partner John Doerr, this “goes well beyond the the world of websites, documents and mobile apps”. Read more

Richard Waters

The Tesla Model S was Motor Trend car of the year last year and starts at a base price of $62,400. So how could you get one for an all-in cost of $500 a month?

Simple: start by valuing your own time at $100 an hour. That, at least, is according to the creative accounting that Tesla has just come up with for a new lease deal for the vehicle. Read more

It sounded like hubris last week when Nick Hayek, chief executive of Swatch, dismissed out of hand the threat from a potential Apple “smartwatch”. Hadn’t he heard what happens to companies involved in areas of personal technology that come under attack from the creative geniuses of Cupertino, California?

Summoning up images of unwieldy internet watches dating back to Microsoft’s Spot watch of nearly a decade ago, Mr Hayek questioned whether “an interactive terminal on your wrist” would ever catch on. “Personally, I don’t believe this is the next revolution,” he was quoted as saying.

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A $500bn game of chicken. That’s what it feels like as a handful of the biggest US technology companies posture over what they plan to do with their “trapped” overseas cash holdings. But like all games of chicken, the end must come eventually – and it’s hard to see that this is one the tech companies will win.

John Chambers, chief executive of Cisco Systems, struck the most provocative pose in an interview with the FT last week. After four fruitless years of arguing in Washington for a tax holiday for repatriating his foreign cash to be invested in the US, he says he’s had enough and is going to spend it somewhere else instead.

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Richard Waters

IBM’s board of directors got nervous recently when they were told that the company had uncovered higher levels of employee expense fraud.

Mark Loughridge, chief financial officer, says he had a response: “There’s nothing going on here: we’re just catching everyone.” Read more

There aren’t many markets where, when the old products have failed, customers flock back for more.

That could explain why the leading lights of computer security – who have converged on San Francisco this week for their industry’s biggest gathering – have been struggling to strike the right tone.

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Richard Waters

Google’s Chromebook laptops have always felt more like demonstrations of the art of the possible than products you necessarily want to use every day. What they do, they do spectacularly well: it’s just that they aren’t quite the finished article.

The new Chromebook Pixel lives up to that track record. Its high-definition screen is a gorgeous bright rectangle you can’t resist reaching out to stroke. But for most users, the love affair will still feel incomplete. Read more

Richard Waters

There seems to be a sea-change underway in the willingness of companies to admit when they have been the victims of cyber attacks. More have been coming forward, even when they appear to have no legal obligation. But the timing and nature of the disclosures differs greatly.

Take Microsoft’s apparent admission that it has succumbed to the same attack that has hit several other big tech companies. Compared even with Apple, traditionally the tech industry’s most secretive company, its disclosure was both late and light on detail. Read more

Richard Waters

IBM has a tried and trusted method for turbo-charging its growth in promising new IT markets: rebrand its existing efforts in the field in question, boast about all the investments it’s already made – and then promise to double them.

Analytics, security and ecommerce have all come in for this kind of treatment, making them bright spots in an otherwise low-growth company. Now it’s the turn of mobile computing. Read more

Richard Waters

The Apple CEO has had no shortage of advice from Wall Street lately on what to do with his company’s $137bn cash mountain. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn thinks he should issue a new class of preferred stock that would appeal to investors looking for yield. A combination of a higher dividend and stock buybacks that raised Apple’s three-year payout plans from $45bn to $60bn might be less radical but could be effective, according to Brian Marshall of ISI.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs technology and internet conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, he talked about his views on big acquisitions (he’s considered them seriously), the legal battle with Einhorn (“a silly sideshow”) and whether Apple needs bigger or cheaper iPhones to expand its market. Read more

Richard Waters

Forget all the dire warnings about the disruptive effects of mobile: for Google at least, tablets are on some measures starting to look like a better business than PCs, even if smartphones still lag.

That’s according to digital marketing company Marin Software, which has just published the results of its latest survey of global search trends. The amount of money spent on search advertising on tablets has already eclipsed smartphones – and with advertisers getting more bang for their buck on tablets than on PCs, the redirection of ad dollars looks set to continue. Read more

Richard Waters

Why is it that text-to-speech services so often come with that cool-yet-sexy synthesised female voice straight out of a male fantasy?

Ivona, a Polish company, is no exception, judging by this avatar from the company’s website. She is likely to be coming to more Kindle devices soon, following Amazon’s acquisition of the company on Thursday. The most tantalysing question, though: Is Ivona also Amazon’s answer to Siri and a sign that it will soon be in the smartphone business? Read more

If Microsoft isn’t prepared to take a bet on the PC, then who is?

This explains why the world’s biggest software company is now considering dipping into its $67bn of cash reserves to back a buyout of Dell, a casualty of the fierce wars raging in the hardware industry.

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It’s not what you get out of it that matters, it’s what you put in.

That is the real significance of Facebook’s inelegantly named Graph Search, the new “social” search engine it unveiled this week. The company that probably already knows more about you than any other single business would now like you to divulge one other, extremely valuable thing: what you want.

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Richard Waters

Facebook has announced a new social search service at an event at its HQ in California today.

Mark Zuckerberg has gone out of his way to stress that “graph search” is not intended to be a Google-killer. But for advertisers, this could be a significant moment. With a trillion social connections, Facebook believes that searching the social graph will yield something more revealing than trawling links on the Web.

Read our blow-by-blow analysis live from the event as the news unfolded.

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Richard Waters

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Could a Dell no longer weighed down by the anchor of its original PC business carve out a new future of growth as an enterprise technology company?

That is the only conceivable rationale for a potential buy-out that has once again become a hot topic of conversation on Wall Street. But it will take a strong nerve to call the bottom at a time when Dell’s PC business looks to be in free-fall. Read more