Josh Silverman, Chieif Digital Officer of American Express at their headquarters in New York©Pascal PerichWhen Josh Silverman received a call last year asking if he would like to work for American Express, he was surprised.

The 43-year-old technology entrepreneur’s life had always revolved around Silicon Valley start-ups. He had been chief executive of Skype and before that held a senior role at eBay. In the late 1990s he had cofounded Evite, the internet invitations company, and sold it in 2001. The thought of working for a 162-year-old blue-chip corporation was alien.

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Talking to TVs was the talk of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this month, with voice and gestures being demonstrated as new ways of controlling internet-connected TVs that have become too smart in their interfaces and capabilities for regular remote controls.

But there are other uses for the cameras and microphones being introduced that can see and hear us. In this week’s Personal Technology column, I have been comparing the telyHD and Biscotti TV webcams that promise better living room communications over Skype and Google Talk. Longer reviews of both are after the jump. Read more

Tech news from around the web:

Apple is to phase out access to the unique device identifier, or UDID, on devices such as iPhones and iPads in the next update to its iOS mobile software, according to TechCrunch. The UDID is used by mobile ad and game networks or any app that needs to identify its users. If it is scrapped, companies would have to create their own unique identifiers to keep track of their users. This, TechCrunch warns, would mean companies may well have to get rid of all of their historical user data and start from scratch. Read more

Google may be drawing strong reviews for its latest attempt at a social networking service, but Facebook is not standing still. Mark Zuckerberg declared that his company has reached 750m users and entered a new phase, as it looks to build on its “social infrastructure”. First up: Skype. Read more

Facebook’s hint that it will be launching “something awesome” this coming week has prompted feverish speculation about what the social network will unveil, as it faces fresh competition from Google+Read more

During the 1990s, stock options became a part of Silicon Valley lore. They represented the right of even the most junior engineer to strike it rich and became a standard part of any pay package.

But things aren’t that simple anymore. The Valley’s approach to pay has changed greatly since the last dotcom bubble, and workers who don’t learn the new rules of the game can get caught out. Read more

There’s no doubt about it: Wall Street is ready to pay up for growth. Even when compared to the heady price Microsoft has just agreed to pay for Skype, the LinkedIn deal looks rich. But this kind of growth is a rare commodity in the public market these days. Read more

Is the secondary market for private company stock – one of the main financial innovations of the last couple of years – just a flash in the pan? Two of the most watched companies, Skype and LinkedIn, are about to be lost in little more than a week. How many others among the top ten will still be around a year from now? See the full list after the break. Read more

Does it matter that investors in the public markets are missing out on the big early gains in internet stocks? Niklas Zennstrom (of Skype fame) has done his own calculations and tells us that the majority of large-cap, high-growth names in the world today are not traded on any stock market. Read more


Steve Ballmer became chief executive of Microsoft in January 2000, a few months before a federal judge ordered the company to be broken up on antitrust grounds, because it was too powerful and was extending its grip too widely. This ruling was later reversed and, 11 years later Microsoft remains in one piece, and its size and scope has turned into its weakness.

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Online communications networks have always held a strong business allure. Long before Microsoft alighted on the idea of buying Skype, they were seen as useful tools for supporting and entrenching other businesses.

It may sound almost laughable now, but at the time of AOL’s acquisition of Time Warner, the AOL instant messaging system was talked of as a powerful distribution system for Time Warner’s media properties, and a big reason for the deal.

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Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer and Skype boss Tony Bates gave a press conference at 8am local time in San Francisco to discuss their $8.5bn deal, announced today.

After live-blogging the event, here are my initial conclusions: Read more

For Microsoft Skype could form the glue between its PC, mobile and gaming businesses that it has hitherto lacked.
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Microsoft was in advanced discussions on Monday night about purchasing Skype, the internet telephone company, in what would be one of the US software company’s largest deals so far as it seeks to boost its online operations. Read more

Tech news from around the web:

  • In an attempt to stem online piracy, Universal and Sony Music, two of Britain’s biggest record labels, are to make their new singles available for sale on the day they first hit the airwaves, PaidContent reports. The music companies hope that by being able to buy songs immediately,  impatient music lovers will stop copying songs from radio broadcasts online.
  • TechCrunch reports on findings by Asmyco, the Helsinki-based app developer and industry analysis advisory firm, that more than 60 Apps have been downloaded for every iOS device sold -  up from 10 Apps downloaded for every iPhone/iPod touch in 2008.

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One hazard of new mass-market consumer technologies is that they make geeks of us all. So it is with Skype, which has just come up with an exhaustive account of its spectacular pre-Christmas crash. But the implications go much further than the technical. With an IPO on the cards, this has not come at a good time. Read more

Skype’s filing for an initial public offering on Monday comes as the communications service is reaching a new level of maturity.

Skype is available on a growing number of devices as rivals such as Apple’s FaceTime struggle to establish meaningful connections with customers and other services. Read more

Mobile and fixed-line operators have shown little interest in improving the voice quality of phone calls, but the internet phone company Skype came out with a compelling reason for them to do so on Monday.

Speaking at the eComm conference in Silicon Valley, Jonathan Rosenberg, Skype‘s chief technology officer, said its users were talking for almost 50 per cent longer on calls delivered in high-definition quality. Read more

Skype has announced some major advances for the consumer in video calling – with high-definition pictures enabled and integration with TV sets.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it isunveiling partnerships with LG and Panasonic to offer Skype–enabled HDTVs  from the middle of this year. Their 720P HD webcams with built-in microphones are specially designed to pick up video and sound from couch distances. Read more

You just know that this is not the end.

It’s like one of those bad soap operas. There’s a big family wedding coming up and the distant European cousins aren’t invited. It leads to some vicious public name-calling. Eventually everyone calms down and the cousins are invited after all, though some other guests have be thrown off the list to make room for them.

But as soon as they all get in the same room again, it won’t take long for the bad feelings to return. You just know. Read more