Software

By Andrew Betts of FT Labs

Google has announced a major change to its Chrome browser this week. While it represents a divergence in a key part of Chrome previously shared with Apple’s Safari browser, the move should enable Google ultimately to up its pace of innovation.

So for those who might think that a ‘rendering engine’ is a piece of farm machinery, we offer the following overview of this development, which represents a substantial fork in the road in the development of the web. Read more

Nick D'Aloisio, who sold his mobile news reader app Summly to Yahoo!

It is the story that became irresistible to investors, journalists and, ultimately, Yahoo: the wunderkind with the killer app who became an “overnight” millionaire. In London, where 17-year-old Nick D’Aloisio lives, works and goes to school, his rise has also been seen as a sign that the city can rival Silicon Valley as a centre for tech and innovation.

Of course, the tale of the teenager and Summly, his iPhone newsreader for which Yahoo paid almost $30m this week, is more complicated than that. It illustrates that a catchy idea and a strong, global network are just as important as the underlying technology – if not more so. And it shows that while London is right to be excited about Silicon Roundabout, it remains the precocious adolescent to the Valley’s sophisticated adult.

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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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Ferguson illustration

Things got quite exciting in London at noon on Tuesday. First Kweku Adoboli, the rogue trader formerly employed by UBS, was sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud. Then Hewlett-Packard accused the former management of Autonomy, the UK software company, of wrongdoing. The moral appeared to be, as a New York journalist wryly tweeted: “Don’t trust the British.”

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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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Software, to borrow a phrase from venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, is eating the world. Last month Facebook announced its billionth active member. An Android-powered Google is worth more than Microsoft. Companies from Kickstarter to Khan Academy to Skype to Amazon to Etsy are transforming the retail, telecoms, education, manufacturing and financial services sectors, writes Andrew Keen.

East London’s Silicon Roundabout, a cluster of tech companies, has received support from the British government. Yet some people remain sceptical. Sir James Dyson, an inventor, has told the BBC that hardware manufacturers are a smarter investment than software companies.

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Getty Images

Interesting commentary from around the Web on the tech story that made headlines this week.

For many, Tim Cook made his first significant mark on Apple this week with a reshuffling of senior executives that included the departure of Scott Forstall, Apple’s senior vice-president of iOS, and John Browett, its head of retail operations.

At the same time, commentators welcomed news that chief hardware designer Sir Jonathan Ive would now oversee software design. Read more

Windows 8Does Microsoft risk confusing consumers with an operating system that tries to serve every kind of computing device and may end up satisfying no one? With its dual-interface, dual-purpose, dual-processor, mixed-up thinking, Windows 8 is a pushmi-pull­yu, half-man, half-biscuit, weird and occasionally wonderful creation that is guaranteed to bewilder – at least initially.

And that’s just the Microsoft end of the operation. The hardware makers have responded with their own Whirligig 8 – sorry, Windows 8 – of swivelling, swinging, sliding and snapping hybrid devices that veer from tablets to notebooks. Everyone is trying to cover everything while they wait to see what we consumers will go for.

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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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Chris Nuttall

Demo Fall 2012 is underway with more than 75 new ideas being pitched in six-minute presentations by startups at the annual event in Silicon Valley.

Hardware, software and services are being featured covering the social, entertainment, media, commerce, communications, big data, infrastructure, health and education sectors. A sample of the most impressive demonstrations – from a tabloid social-network app to an Instagram for video – is after the jump. Read more