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

There are few greater indignities for a tech company than to be sought out by investors chasing dividend yield. The industry was founded on growth: yield is for old-economy investors who can’t stomach the risk of investing in the next big growth markets.

So spare a thought for the PC world, which in remarkably short order has become the tech world’s high-yield haven. After years of talk about a post-PC future, the alarms are now sounding loudly: rather than growth, accelerating decline is assumed in Wall Street’s forecasts. Read more

Richard Waters

Victory on the main issue raised in the US anti-trust investigation of Google – the charge of search bias – is likely to remove any self-imposed limits the company has observed while under intense regulatory scrutiny over the past two years (Google’s own response, hinting at more aggressive competition to come, certainly suggested as much.)

Another consequence, noted by former FTC official David Balto: Any hopes that rivals had about riding on the back of regulatory action to bring their own private lawsuits have been dashed.

But in the area of patents, at least, the concession Google has made to end a US anti-trust investigation could have wider ramifications. Read more

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Like all things to do with Las Vegas, the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which arrives in town next week, is loud, flashy and over the top. But, as a guide to what will soon be appearing in your living room, the show’s record is patchy.

Take the hot trends in televisions, as seen in Las Vegas in recent years. From the arrival of internet-connected sets in 2007 to the first ultra-high definition OLED screens in 2008 and then 3D TV in 2010, there has been no shortage of ideas for reinventing the medium. None of these has yet gone mainstream, though.

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Richard Waters

When Google launched its AdSense network to push advertising to third-party websites, it already had a massively successful advertising business on Google.com.

Facebook hasn’t reached that point yet – so it makes sense that it has pulled back from testing third-party advertising to get the basic product right first. Read more

Richard Waters

The internet consumer loans company Lending Club has certainly attracted some big names to its board: former Morgan Stanley boss John Mack, internet analyst-turned venture capitalist Mary Meeker – and now Larry Summers, a former US Treasury secretary.

It’s all a sign that the barriers to consumer finance are crumbling for a new wave of start-ups, Mr Summers tells us. Read more

What do a spat over the taxes that Google and Amazon pay in the UK and a multinational conference on the internet taking place in Dubai have in common?

On the face of it, not very much. But they are united by at least one thing: a growing awareness of the immense power – and profits – of some of the richest US technology companies. As many countries struggle with their own dire fiscal positions, this conspicuous success has become hard to ignore. Less friendly tax regimes and encroaching regulation are becoming a very real threat.

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Is the US system for financing technology innovation broken?

It’s certainly damaged, according to one of the most successful US tech investors of recent years. If he’s right, both entrepreneurs and investors could be living with outsized expectations that were set in a different era and have little bearing on what is to come.

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When your company has been built around a deeply ingrained product development and manufacturing process, it is hard to change. And when that process has given you a world-beating edge through any number of product and technology cycles, it is even less easy to see why you should.

Now add in another complication: Wall Street thinks you have traded away your future and you need to learn a whole new way of doing business. But there is a catch. It does not want you to give up the unrepeatable profit margins you make from your old ways.

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How far will Google go to head off the threat of long and damaging antitrust battles on both sides of the Atlantic – and how hard will regulators push to cramp its expansive style?

The answers to those questions should become clearer in the next few weeks, as the European Commission and the US Federal Trade Commission press the company for voluntary changes in its business model to end their antitrust investigations. Rivals want radical action, perhaps even extending to a break-up of Google into separate companies that handle search and other services. The likely outcome, though, is more minimalist.

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Richard Waters

There has been no shortage of calls recently for European regulators to drag Google’s controversial new data privacy policies into their anti-trust investigation of the company. But with settlement talks at an advanced stage, we hear this one isn’t going anywhere – at least, not in this round of Google v the EU. Read more

Richard Waters

If it’s Monday, it must be Windows Phone 8. Not to mention Google’s Nexus range. Would you prefer that in four, seven or ten inches?

At this time of year, the flow of new smartphones, tablets and things that defy categorisation becomes a flood. But the message left by the latest deluge of hardware (which includes a new iPad mini last week) is a somewhat paradoxical one: with the number and type of screens proliferating, the real key now lies in integration between machines, not in the devices themselves. Read more

Richard Waters

After two quarters of declines, iPhone sales ticked up again in the latest period, to nearly 27m. Meanwhile, iPad sales dropped to 14m as rumours of a new iPad mini spread like wildfire. But for Wall Street, this was just the appetiser: the real banquet will be Apple’s current quarter, when iPhone sales are projected to jump to 50m and iPads to 22m. Speaking on the earnings call, Apple executives sounded optimistic about their ability to ship the new products in high volumes – though they warned that profit margins would suffer a temporary dent.

See below for our blow-by-blow take on the company’s latest earnings call. Read more

Will Windows 8 turn out to be Microsoft’s “New Coke”?

Messing around with one of the world’s most familiar everyday products is hardly something to be undertaken lightly – and with the new version of Windows, which goes on sale on Friday, there has been a lot of messing around. That almost guarantees some degree of user backlash. But it would be wrong to judge the outcome of what amounts to a bet-the-farm gamble by Microsoft on its initial reception.

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Richard Waters

If you’re one of those people who has been dying to use Excel or Word on a touch-optimised tablet, your wait is over. But that may not be enough to justify paying a premium for a device that is both Microsoft’s first foray into personal computing hardware as well as the flagship for the new Windows 8.

Try, for a moment, to put comparisons with the iPad out of your mind (admittedly not so easy on the day that Apple has just shown off the new iPad mini and a souped-up 10in version). The Surface, which goes on sale on Friday, deserves to be judged on its own terms: as a tablet that is designed to function equally well as a notebook PC. Read more

Richard Waters

The hotly anticipated IPO of Workday could help to advance Morgan Stanley’s rehabilitation in the wake of the Facebook fiasco. But given the way other recent tech deals led by the bank have been structured, it is still too soon to pass a verdict on its performance – or to tell how much long-term damage the debacle surrounding the Facebook offering will do to its business in Silicon Valley. Read more

The Apple maps fiasco brings to mind that old joke about what a European version of hell would be like: a place where the chefs are all English, the lovers are Swiss, and the Italians are left to make sure things run on time.

But like it or not, this is where the new mobile technology world could be headed. In the smartphone version of hell, the browsers and apps stores are modelled on a BlackBerry, the social networks are run by News Corp, and the hardware looks like the first Amazon Kindle. Apple’s new iPhone maps, which have a habit of mis-locating key buildings and public sites, are an honourable addition to this roster – though they will surely get better fast.

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It has taken Wall Street a long time to warm to Google’s second act.

This week, however, stock market investors have finally thrown aside some of their wariness. By pushing the search company’s shares to their first record high in almost five years, they delivered a vote of confidence in the new, more diversified advertising business that has become the basis for Google’s latest surge of growth – while also giving an implicit thumbs-down to Facebook, whose short-term chances of putting Google in the shade, at least in business terms, have receded sharply.

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Mobile payment system
On a bright morning at the ultra-hip Sightglass Coffee shop in San Francisco this week, Brad Miller, a healthcare technology consultant, is in need of a cappuccino.

By the time he reaches the counter, his picture has magically appeared on the iPad the shop uses as its payment terminal. The assistant identifies him by his photo and taps the screen to confirm a sale, and Mr Miller picks up his beverage. As he walks out, a receipt drops on to his iPhone.

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Are smartphones about to swallow the payments business? Two events this week have given sharply contradictory answers.

The first was the $3.25bn valuation put on Square , a Silicon Valley payments start-up, by the company’s latest round of fundraising. This represents a huge bet, given that Square is a business with annualised revenues of only about $200m that is battling with the giants of the banking, retail and mobile industries.

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