Saturday, December 31, 2005

Have a great end to 2005!

TechBoard would like to wish you all a fabulous end to 2005 and all the very best for 2006.

We only launched TechBoard in September 2005 and in the last few months over 1,200 of you have visited us and many of you are now regular readers. And we haven't even started marketing yet!

We have lots of great stuff in store for you in 2006. It's gonna be an exciting year. We will be back in ernest from next Tuesday.

So from TechBoard and all at the businessuncut network,

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Intel to announce new strategy and to re-brand

Intel is about to unveil a revolutionery new strategy and all new branding. I guess the engineers are finally no longer running the company. After all, new CEO, Otellini is a marketing and business guy. He's no techie. And he recently hired Kim, Samsung's head marketer, as CMO and has him report directly.

So, Kim and Ottelini have decided that Intel needs to become more than just the leader of microchips in computers. Now they need to drive into more and more sectors with more powerful brands. They need to power entertainment centers and personal video recorders with Viv. They need to own the wireless space with Centrino and they need to regain the momentum in servers and PC's with Core.

They will get aggressive about new sectors such as mobile and medical and more while also going beyond just the chip. Now they're going to go further up the stack to provide platforms of chips and software. Enabling the boxes they sell to become easier to build and to run better. Intel may even take us all closer to the concept of 'plug and play'. I certainly hope so.

And to support all of this Intel is about to unveil a snappy new swirling logo and a new strap line - "leap ahead". And they'll power this new look and strategy with a multi-billion dollar ad campaign intended to help us all understand better what Intel can do for our lives.

Wow! It looks like 2006 will see a remake for the other half of Wintel after all. And I can't help feeling like Intel and Microsoft may even be getting it right. So, well done Apple for choosing Intel and look out TI, Samsung and Qualcomm. It'll be a long slog for Intel but this isn't a bad start.

If it works they may even see double digit growth again, but it'll take a couple of years to get there.

Google to provide search for new Opera's mobile browsers

Opera has just announced that they have chosen Google as their default search partner for their mobile browsers and the about to be launched Opera Mini browser which will be offered for free. I guess they have some revenue share with Google to justify a free browser.

Google should be driving hard into the mobile space. 2006 makes getting their mobile strategy successful essential. This is not a bad start. Mind you there are rumours that Google may go a step further and buy Opera. Mmmm...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

AT&T set for major marketing push

It looks like starting this weekend AT&T is launching a major advertising push. It appears they may be spending $300-500M in 2006.

And now that AT&T is back in the consumer business in a major way, following the merger of SBC and AT&T, expect AT&T ads to get sexy again. Mind you, they need to for AT&T has a hard task ahead of them.

AT&T now need to persuade consumers not only to hold onto their telephone service instead of switching to mobile only or succumbing to cable operators triple play, but they also have to educate their users on the benefits of internet TV.

Plus, AT&T have to grab the attention from a wider array of competitors that now include cable companies and internet powerhouses as well as the old guard telco's, both fixed and mobile.

Plus, they need to keep advertising to their business customers.

So, good luck AT&T, and the campaign had better be good because we believe your gonna need all the help you can get in 2006.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Music downloading soars - Apple too!

It looks like Xmas came to Apple after all. The much predicted popularity of the iPod as an Xmas gift this season became reality. And unlike Microsoft with the Xbox, Apple was prepared and didn't run out of product.

And visits to online music stores seems to have soared up to 50% on Xmas day in key markets such as the US and UK as people went shopping for tunes for the iPod they had just received.

Sony Connect, the new Sony music store catapulted into the No2 position as they benefitted strongly too. Their key device seems to be the Walkman mobile phone which is proving phenominally popular particularly in Europe and Asia and has vaulted its maker SonyEricsson into 4th position in mobile phone rankings.

But not surprisingly Apple is the main winner. Some analysts expect Apple to have shipped 37m iPods worldwide by the year-end, with about 10m sold in the key Christmas quarter. That's one heck of a market lead and one powerful franchise.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

TV series DVD sales fly

Sales of television programmes on DVD are expected to end the year up 21% from 2004, a rare success for Hollywood in what has been an otherwise gloomy year.

Just five years ago the market for DVDs of TV programmes was negligible. However, sales this year are expected to total about $2.7bn, according to Adams Media Research, an entertainment industry consultancy, out of total projected DVD sales of $12.9bn.

And Hollywood can sigh a small sigh of relief for an otherwise depressing end to 2006. This year's lack of blockbuster movie releases coupled with flattening DVD sales has left the industry with a weak performance. And it looks like DVD sales are set for low growth next year also.

Add to this another year of cinema attendances diminishing and they have every reason to be depressed. Mind you, given how much they charge for a family to go to the cinema's these days, I'm not surprised.

So, will 2006 be better overall? Well, we have a new DVD format coming out for high definition from both Sony and Toshiba which medium term should see a revival in DVD sales, plus the video iPod could once and for all kick off video downloading. Oh and one of the biggest sellers this Xmas was flat screen TV's so maybe this'll boost sales in the short term.

Somehow, even given the above, I think Hollywood will be in for another somewhat disappointing year in 2006. I'm sorry.

Re-gifting the next big thing on Ebay

A week or so ago I wrote about how the ratailing industry's innovation for 2006 should be how to generate more sales throughout the year so the poor luvvies are not so bitterly dependant on year end holiday sales.

Well, it looks like Ebay is listening. At least one of you is listening to me! They've discovered how to power sales after Xmas and at the beginning of January. Yep, it's regifting. Go squirrel out all those unwanted presents you have amassed over the last few years, photograph them and flog them on Ebay.

So, that disgusting sweater, the stripey scarf, the 5th copy of Jaws on DVD and that cheap bottle of wine form Chile can all go. And it looks as though approaching 25% of consumers in the US and UK may get to re-gift this season. Where are those old socks of mine? Oh, and nice one Ebay.

Sirius satellita radio surpasses 3m subscribers

Sirius Satellite Radio has surpassed 3 million subscribers and expects a strong year-end. It started the quarter with 2.17 million subscribers.

Sirius trails XM Satellite Radio Holdings in the market for paid satellite radio services, but it hopes to boost its growth in 2006 with the addition of shock-jock Howard Stern to its line-up.

Defying all the pundits and even gravity it looks like satellite radio and paid for radio is here to stay. Who'd ever have guessed it. I'm still struggling with the why. Oh well.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Samsung to sell flash memory to Sony

Two of the worlds largest electronics companies have agreed a deal over NAND flash memory. Samsung, the worlds No1 flash memory maker has agreed to supply large amounts of flash memory to Sony.

As a result Samsung shares have soared and Sony looks set to start their fight back against Apple. The flash memory is for a bunch of new digital (MP3) music players they are launching at the beginning of next year.

Apple have done deals with Samsung as well, but apparently Sony's is bigger which just goes to prove that 2006 will see Sony go after the digital music player market in a major way. And they do have a lead on Apple with a mobile phone/music player after SonyEricsson launched the now successful Walkman phone.

Expect Apple to respond early in 2006 with a mobile phone based on the iPod. If they get the design right it could prove extremely popular. For Apple to continue the iPod's success into the future they have to get their mobile strategy right.

Oh, and another interesting thought. Will Apple be the first company to use flash memory in computers and the notebook in particular? Now there's an idea!

Spitzer subpoenas leading music companies

Spitzer has subpoenaed at least three of the four global music companies as part of an investigation into collusion on pricing of digitally downloaded music.

Spitzer sure knows how to make a name for himself. It's interesting to see him go after such a young industry. And this one seems deserved. Music companies have been making much too much press noise about raising download prices when the consumers and music service companies clearly do not want it.

And the 4 major music labels have the power between them to fix prices. This power has to be wielded carefully as Spitzer may prove. If Spitzer makes progress the largest beneficiary may even be Apple. Jobs has been shouting for the last few months about keeping legal downloads to 99c per tune. I have to agree with him. And the price clearly works for the consumer. It's sensible value and simple to understand.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

US video games sales stall

US video games sales have stalled due to the lack of availablilty of the all new Xbox 360. As a result people are apparently also holding back on buying compatible games.

Microsoft have I believe made a strategic blunder. They have been banging on for much of this year about the fact that the Xbox 360 will be out so much sooner than the market leaders new Sony Playstation 3. Great. But, if they can't ramp up production of the Xbox 360 quickly enough this head start will quickly become irrelevant.

The longer it takes Microsoft to get enough product out there for consumers the more consumers will consider waiting for the Playstation 3 to come out before they decide on upgrading.

Look at me. I wanted to get an Xbox 360 for my son. I can't find one anywhere and I'm not prepared to fly to Tokyo to get him one (apparently the Japanese are not so enamoured with Microsoft's answer to their beloved Playstation) - sorry sonny (not Sony silly). So now I've bought him something else. He'll have to wait until his birthday to get a new games console and if the Playstation 3 is out by then then I will consider it as well.

Shame Microsoft. You have an innovative new console you just can't get it out there. This could prove a costly blunder. Oh well.

AOL to IPO in 2008?

A few news sites have picked up that in the listing documents for AOL's deal with Google it states that Google has a right to push for an IPO of AOL in 2008 or Time Warner has to buy their 5% stake at a fair market value. This has led to some rampant speculation that AOL will IPO in 2008 and this is Parsons game plan.

I don't think so. This is a standard provision for a deal like this. It allows Google a sensible exit at the end of their contract period (3 years). This doesn't by any means state that Time Warner is considering an IPO of AOL as a part of its strategy, even though it might be convenient to get Icahn and his hedge fund babies to think so.

So sexy as it seems this snippet gives us no better idea of what Time Warner is really planning for AOL. My bet is that they'll try for another 12-18 months to make AOL work within the Time Warner unbrella and if it works they'll hang onto it and if not they'll IPO AOL or merge it with someone else - maybe even Google?!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Verizon Wireless latest to launch online music service

Online music services are the latest and greatest thing. Yesterday we heard and wrote about a start-up open source music service and today we find out that Verizon is apparently about to launch their own!

As early as next month they may launch a music download service that will let subscribers purchase music wirelessly over their mobile phones and transfer songs between their phones and Windows PCs.

The new service, called V Cast Music, is designed to offer songs from artists on major music labels, including Warner Music Group, EMI Music, Universal Music Group and Sony BMG. Verizon expects to offer more than a million songs by the spring.

Mobile music services such as this have to be the future. Expect many more starting next year. It'll be interesting to see who will ultimately win in online music apps. My bets on the mobile operators long term - unless Apple gets more open with iTunes.

Google founders named Men of the Year

Google Founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, were today named as Men of the Year by the Financial Times. (Clap, clap, clap - I mean applause, not the other one!)

What more need I say other than check out businessuncut daily, our sister network, for their piece today on Google's achievements for 2005 and where they're going in 2006 and beyond.

Well done guys. You deserve the FT award. Oh, and FT Exec's, can you please name me next year. I promise I'll be nice.

NBC buys controlling stake in MSNBC. Is Microsoft getting out of content?

NBC Universal has acquired a controlling interest in its MSNBC television venture with Microsoft, with the option of acquiring 100% of the cable channel within two years.

NBC and Microsoft have done a good job with MSNBC and It is now one of the most widely read and watched news service on the internet and cable TV. I'm sure NBC Universal have paid a good chunk of money.

For Microsoft to cash in now when the value is high is sensible. It is interesting that Microsoft is getting out of content as the world moves more towards convergence. Would MSN be better off if they still controled assets such as MSNBC and even Expedia? I think they probably would.

Convergence is here to stay and will only accellerate. I like Yahoo's approach. They are getting more and more into content, both created by them and their users. They are also piling into joint ventures with TV stations etc. I think this is the future. Be careful Microsoft.

I believe you need a mixture of syndicated content from affiliate content providers plus some of your own, plus user generated content. That has to be the converged portal of tomorrow and Yahoo is the leader.

Comcast goes family friendly too!

Comcast has now joined Time Warner in launching a family friendly cable package. It now seems to be all the rage to fend off critics and launch US family friendly packages.

The package will include 16 networks in addition to the company’s basic cable offering, including Disney Kids, C-Span, Nickelodeon, CNN, and the Food Network. It will cost $31.20 a month.

This makes a great deal of sense and probably should have happened a long time ago.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

EC approves Oracle/Siebel deal

The European Commission today cleared Oracle Corp.'s proposed $5.85 billion acquisition of business-software rival Siebel Systems, the last regulatory hurdle for the deal.

Now Oracle can get on with the much harder task of getting all their acquisitions to improve their market share and overall performance. Good luck to them!

New open source start up to challenge iTunes

The open source movement is now taking aim at Apple's iTunes and microsoft's Media Player. The ambitiously named start-up, Pioneers of the Inevitable, is building a piece of digital-music software called "Songbird," based on much of the same underlying open-source technology as the Firefox Web browser.

With their first technical preview expected early next year, the programmers want to create music-playing software that will work naturally with the growing number of music sites and services on the Web, instead of being focused on songs on a computer's hard drive. That's where iTunes, which plugs only into Apple's own music store, falls short, they argue.

But with Microsoft now owning 45% of the market for listening to music via PC's and Apple with 17%, Songbird has an uphill battle. Mind you, so did Firefox. Never underestimate the power of open source software. 2005 has really proven that open source software has a major niche to fill in the global software industry and they're filling it fast. This category was screaming to get the 'open source' treatment!

Tough end to the year for Microsoft

Ooh, what a tough end to the year for Microsoft. And what a rough year it's been for them. Many would argue that 2006 can only be better for them, mainly because 2005 has been so bad. Their results have been ok, it's been the market stumbles that have challenged them.

2005 has been marked with bad press, tough competition, delayed software, not enough Xboxes, a failed partnership with AOL, Google and now the European Commission on their tails.

For the European Commission has formally accused Microsoft of failing to comply with its landmark anti-trust ruling from March 2004, and warned the US software group that it could face fresh financial penalties early in the new year. And these penalties could amount to $2.5M per day. Ouch!

This all relates to Microsoft failing to react to the requirement that they reveal information about the workings of its Windows operating system to rivals. This way other software companies can ensure that they're server software runs smoothly with Windows devices. Apparently they have done everything to stall this. Naughty boys.

Microsoft now has five weeks to meet the Commission’s demands. If it fails to do so, the regulator will impose a daily fine on the group that can eventually reach up to €2m a day. However, for the Commission to impose the maximum penalty Microsoft would also have to be found to have failed in other duties, so the penalty is certain to start at a lower level.

Shame, this isn't exaclty a great way for Microsoft to end the year. Losing the AOL deal to Google should have been bad enough. Now Microsoft have to resort to fighting back against Google by embedding search in their next version of Windows due out at the end of 2006. I wonder when Microsoft will be able to compete better by other means than leveraging their Windows franchise? Oh well, 2006 should be better for them, but for Google as well I predict.

Blackberry back on the offensive - can it last?

Balckberry's owner RIM finally seems back on the offensive as their latest quarterly numbers proved solid, including new subscriber numbers and as a US judge seemed to support their position vis a vis the NTP patents.

Blackberry boosted their subscriber numbers by 645,000 in the 3rd quarter, taking total subscribers to 4.3M. It now looks like they will get past the magic 5M number by the end of their 4th quarter. Also net income increased to $120.1M, or 61 cents a share, from $90.4M, or 46 cents, a year earlier on sales that rose by 53% to $561M.

The PTO (Patent & Trademark Office) took the unusual step of notifying both companies that it expected it would reject the five patents held by NTP in its final rulings and described NTP’s arguments as “non-persuasive”. The office has issued preliminary rejections of all five wireless e-mail patents.

Meanwhile Judge James Spencer, the US district court judge overseeing the infringement case, has set a timetable for hearings on issuing an injunction against RIM that could coincide with the timing of the patent office’s final rulings, now expected as soon as mid-February.

So 2005 seems to be ending on a better note for Blackberry. They need it, they've had one tough year. Unfortunately it still doesn't change things for me. I believe that 2006 will bring harsher challenges for Blackberry in terms of competitive offerings and real market challenges from both Microsoft and Nokia.

Blackberry's vital head start is fading fast. They should have gone further this year and I fear that the NTP patent will prove long term damaging from the momentum it has lost them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

AOL/Google deal finally done

The AOL/Google deal has been finally done and the media world will have to live life without the endless speculation surrounding for the last year. We will all instead have to conduct post mortems to ensure we can keep the story alive for as long as possible. After all, it has been a bit of a classic. And could continue to be, particularly for Time Warner.

After all, this is Parsons deal. This is all about Parsons and his board taking control and pointing two fingers at Icahn and his buddies. So, epxect Icahn to come storming back and expect Time Warner to have a royal scrap in 2006. For now Parsons probably has the upper hand. In fact he has just announced a management shake-up which will firm his position by appointing a new COO, Jeff Bewkes.

And the analysts seem positive about the AOL/Google deal which should shut Icahn up a little for a while. And over all it's not a bad deal for both companies. AOL gets to benefit from greater exposure at Google sites and earn more from a broader advertising alliance and Google gets to hang on to their partnership with AOL, get more of AOL's content and get more into banner ads, which is bound to boost their revenues.

A few people will moan about Google losing some of their independence and purity, but it was always going to happen and this move gives Google a help up to becoming the broader portal it was always bound to become. Plus Google now gets a boost in messaging and video, both key areas going forwards.

So, well done Time Warner and well done Google and bad luck to Icahn and to Microsoft. They'll both have to figure out how to fight back in 2006!

Seagate to buy Maxtor

Seagate Technology, the digital storage giant, reached a deal today to acquire a rival, Maxtor, for $1.9 billion in stock.

Seagate's acquisition comes as the market for digital storage is booming. Corporations and individuals are saving vast numbers of files that are ever increasing in size, especially with the rising number of audio and video files.

Maxtor, the smaller of the two, has been struggling over the last few years, but it's fortunes have been gradually turning recently as it embarked on a turnaround. This deals seems to be all about scale.

The benefits to be derived from the deal are firming up Seagate's number 1 position in storage and wringing cost improvments from Maxtor in particular. A classic utility style deal. Oh well.

NTT to take 'convergence' stake in Fuji TV

NTT DoCoMo is in talks to invest about Y20bn to take a 2.6% stake in Fuji Television Network, one of Japan's leading TV broadcasters, in a step that heralds the growing convergence of telecommunications and broadcasting.

Convergence just keeps developing. Expect convergence to be the big theme of 2006.

Something juicy happens at IBM - well, actually at Lenovo

Ooh, juicy gossip! A management shake up right at the top of Lenovo. Which means there was an internal tussle. And Lenovo is half ex IBM's PC division so indirectly this means that some juicy gossip almost came out from the somewhat yawny IBM. Wow!

The official line looks somwthing like this - Steve Ward, a veteran IBM executive who had become the first leader of the ambitious Chinese-US corporate experiment, left in what both he and the company characterised as a move to bring an executive with skills more suited to the top job at the world’s third largest PC maker. He was replaced by Bill Amelio, head of Dell’s Asia-Pacific operations and himself a former IBM executive.

Which is corporate mumbo jumbo voodoo talk for Ward, the big company strategic/managementy guy, had a scrap with the entrepreneurial, fast moving, cowboy, hands-on founder and guess who lost.

But of course I could have it wrong. Amelio looks to me to be more of a number 2 type. I'd say this is about Lenovo and their erstwhile founder and Chairman getting back some control. Mind you, the group's got a lot of work ahead of them, so they may as well deal with such leadership issues early on. If they want to be the worlds number 1 PC maker some day they need to move at the speed of light.

IBM to buy Micromuse (yawn)

Well, IBM is on the announcement trail. Yesterday they announced buying Bowstreet and today it's Micromuse for about $865M in cash.

San Francisco-based Micromuse develops network management software used by banks, telecommunications carriers, government and retailers to monitor network activity.

The acquisition will help boost Tivoli's offering for the exceedingly dull market for network management systems. Oh well, IBM gets to add to their software portfolio and we all get to yawn. Happy Xmas IMB, zzzzzzzzzzzzzz... Oh and one day but someone exciting please...zzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

IBM buys Bowstreet

IBM has bought privately-held Bowstreet Inc to make it easier for business customers to gather and view business information from different sources.

The acquisition is an expansion of IBM's business of enabling customers to gather computer information such as databases, electronic documents and financial applications and bringing them together under a single, easily-accessible framework.

This is a boost for the fast growing service-oriented architecture sector which are designed to make it easier for businesses to quickly find information stored in different formats and digital silos. This sector emerged form the corporate portal space.

IBM say customers using Bowstreet's technology combined with IBM's software have been able to build portal applications between two and 12 times faster than when using other tools.

So IBM keep chipping away, buying small infrastructure software companies. When will they do another transformative deal such as when they bought Lotus Notes? Come on Big Blue - give us something meaty to write about.

A personal video recorder service for the iPod is launched

Hauppauge Computer Works has released Wing, a software application that, in conjunction with its WinTV-PVR hardware--a plug-in card that brings personal video recorder technology to PCs--allows users to record television shows directly to their video iPods or Sony PlayStation Portables.

So, if you have a video iPod and want to watch ABC, you don't necessarily have to pay Apple Computer for the opportunity to download their show from the iTunes store.

Wing is like TiVo for the video iPod or the PSP. It works by digitally recording TV programming directly from a user's PC to a portable device via the Hauppauge card. Users who want premium cable content, such as HBO programming, would need to connect a set-top box or satellite receiver to their PC.

Apparently a half hour show would take one hour to record. This seems an interesting move. I guess the copyright issues are properly thought out. I should be the same as for PVR's like Tivo.

Music Publishers Association stamps down on illegal websites

The Music Publishers Association plans to launch by early February its first major push to shut down Web sites that illegally offer copyrighted sheet music.

The New York-based group plans to send "cease and desist" letters to commercial sites that offer unlicensed print music. The group also plans to send letters to Internet service providers, notifying them that they are hosting sites engaged in illegal activity.

Many of the targeted businesses are drawing revenue from banner advertising from large companies. And they're not paying the writers. Ouch!

The planned legal action marks a change among music publishers, which had been filing individual lawsuits against copyright violators.

Reuters launches video for blogs and online publishers

Reuters, the international news agency, is launching a pilot program today that will allow blogs, news organizations and other online publishers to show Reuters news video on their Web sites.

The video affiliate network program will enable Web site operators to place a video player on their Web site and show up to 20 of Reuters' breaking news stories from around the world that will be updated throughout each day.

Nice move Reuters. And now that there are over 1 billion broadband subscribers in the world these moves make total sense. Video is definitely the braoband killer app. And Reuters are saying that they're online strategy going forwards will centre on video. Makes sense.

It'll be interesting to see how many blogsites and websites sign up. Maybe we should. What do you all think?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Softbank and Yahoo announce streaming video service in Japan

Softbank and Yahoo Japan have formed a company to broadcast television programs via the Internet, taking advantage of the growing number of Japanese users on advanced, high-speed Internet connections.

The two companies said the joint venture, TV Bank, would operate a new streaming video service called "Yahoo!Doga", which aims to be a portal site for about 100,000 different programs including movies, sports and music shows as well as drama series from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Doga means "moving image" in Japanese.

The service will likely ratchet up the pressure on Japanese broadcasters to change their business models to integrate the Internet in the broadband era. Japan is one of the world's most advanced broadband markets and offers the cheapest Internet access in the world.

This is just the beginning. Expect major portal players such as Yahoo, AOL and MSN to announce more and more such content deals with major TV stations and movie studios in the US and Europe next year. It's absolutely the way to go as broadband becomes so widley available.

Wikipedia to create more 'stable' version in search for better quality

Wikipedia, the online user-written encyclopedia that has come under fire for inaccuracies, is to introduce a more traditional fixed version of its contents in an effort to increase its reliability.

Wikipedia will now have two versions. One real time, that works on the current model and is continuously updated and corrected by its users, and one that is static and verified and corrected by experts.

This appears to be a sensible enough solution to their quality management in the short term. It seems to me that the real issue longer term is how to improve the quality management on the continuously updated one. If they get enough users, and earn enough from them via advertising, then they should be able to hire experts to verify and improve on the content. It's the usual chicken and egg challenge.

Maybe Wikipedia should raise capital to finance this - ooh! Now that's going over to the dark side, isn't it?!

Cablevision cancels special $3bn dividend

Cablevision Systems Corp, a Long Island-based cable TV company, has announced it will cancel a special $3 billion dividend after finding it had violated the terms of its bank borrowing agreement.

The company also says it will cancel a recently announced $1 billion bond offering.

This ends a truly bizaar year for Cablevision that has seen family feuds and an aborted attempt to take the company private again. In fact the dividend payout was seen as a way of dealing with the privatisation fiasco.

Looks to me like investors might push for a new owner if the leading shareholders and founders, the Dolan family, allow them.

Acquisitions make Carphone Warehouse UK's 3rd largest telco

Carphone Warehouse, Europe’s biggest mobile phone retailer, has more than doubled its residential telephone customer base with two acquisitions that will make it the UK’s 3rd largest provider of fixed-line telephony.

Carphone has agreed to buy Onetel from energy company Centrica for £132m ($233m) in cash, and to buy Tele2’s UK and Irish businesses for £8.5m ($15M).

The retailer already has more than 1m customers for its TalkTalk business, which sells fixed-line telephone services based on a BT wholesale access product. It will gain another 1.4m customers from OneTel and 224,000 customers from Tele2.

This is a shrewd move by Carphone and the deals look good value. Apparently Carphone was the only real bidder given how unpopular fixed line telephony assets remain. More interesting will be to see how Carphone develop their broadband business. Without that these assets could soon dwindle even further in value.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Vonage raises $250M

Vonage, the hottest US internet telephony provider has just raised another $250M. This brings total money raised by the internet pioneer to $670M odd.

It was a private round and investors apparently include both VC's and hedge fund babies. Interesting to see hedge funders now getting into private fund raising deals long the domain of VC's. Mind you, the VC's could do with a little competition.

It also looks like this round could prelude an IPO. The deal is a convertible debt that could convert into equity at an IPO. Apparently the transaction valued Vonage at around $2bn.

Vonage will likely need the money as competition is hotting up with Skype, Yahoo and the major telco's all piling in.

This Xmas' No1 music hit to be decided by downloads

Downloading music has truly arrived. This Xmas No1 chart busting hit will be decided by music downloaders using devices such as Apple's iPod.

And this year 70% of music singles have been bought via downloads!

HP gets behind Toshiba's HD-DVD format

Hewlett-Packard, the 2nd biggest US computer maker, has announced that it will abandon its exclusive support for Sony’s Blu-Ray next-generation format for digital video discs and move to embrace Toshiba’s competing HD-DVD format as well.

Interesting that technology companies are swinging behind Toshiba's format while Sony seems to just have the upper hand with the movie studios. I was starting to believe that Sony's Blu-Ray had won the day - but it looks like the two are going to slug it out next year after all. Shame, a real fight between Sony and Toshiba for next generation DVD is only bad for consumers.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Time Warner in exclusive talks with Google?

Time Warner has entered into exclusive talks with Google about the search engine company buying a stake in Time Warner's AOL online division, the Wall Street Journal is reporting on its web site.

If true, this is a major blow to Microsoft's MSN and a sign from Parsons that he firmly intends to keep AOL independent as a critical Time Warner division. If Google complete the negotiations - good on them!

Adobe having a great year

Design software maker Adobe Systems has just announced that its quarterly profit jumped 38%.

Adobe, known for its Photoshop editing and Acrobat document-sharing software, also said Chief Financial Officer Murray Demo had resigned to spend more time with his family and that a search for his replacement had begun.

Looks like revenues and earnings for the entire year will be way ahead of analysts predictions as well. This caps a great year for Adobe. Closing the Macromedia acquisition was the icing on the cake.

Wikipedia nearly as good as Encyclopedia Britannica?

Wikipedia is about as good a source of accurate information as Britannica, the standard-bearer of facts about the world around us, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature.

For its study, Nature chose articles from both sites in a wide range of topics and sent them to what it called "relevant" field experts for peer review. The experts then compared the competing articles--one from each site on a given topic--side by side, but were not told which article came from which site. Nature got back 42 usable reviews from its field of experts.

In the end, the journal found just eight serious errors, such as general misunderstandings of vital concepts, in the articles. Of those, four came from each site. They did, however, discover a series of factual errors, omissions or misleading statements. All told, Wikipedia had 162 such problems, while Britannica had 123.

Wikipedia will always have a certain amount of errors. When you are building and managing a free encyclopeia built up by volunteer researchers from all over the internet, you are bound to get some innaccuracies. But, they are small in numbers and the self correcting system is solid.

I believe that Wikipedia's time has come. Everyone should check it out.

Research shows online ad spending growing 10% per annum for next 5 years

Online display and search ad spending is projected to grow at an annual rate of 10% over the next five years, according to a study by JupiterResearch.

The automotive, media and financial-services industries are expected to lead the way in total advertising spending. The annual increase in automakers' Web ad spending will be 24%, while the travel industry should see a 13% increase through 2010.

The study also showed that telecommunications, media and entertainment, and finance companies currently account for nearly half of all online display and search advertising spending.

Online advertising is the way forwards. I wonder if the increasing trend towards software offered for free backed up by advertising will stimulate the market even more than expected.

Oracle make solid and somewhat dull progress

Now that Oracle has completed its shopping spree, gobbling up Peplesoft, Siebel etc, the news coming out of them is distinctly boring. But then it would be. Oracle has matured as a company.

In their latest quarter sales of new licences for Oracle’s database and middleware products climbed 5% to $785m, an acceleration from the 1% seen in the preceding three months, but still below the 8% or so most analysts had expected. Oracle had blamed the weakness in its core business on price competition from Microsoft, which has launched a new version of its own database software.

Oracle, like SAP will increasingly behave like a utility. Organic growth will be slow and steady and the focus will increasingly be on operational excellence and cost containment. Growth will come from M&A once they get over their current indigestion.

Competition will remain the usual suspects of SAP, Microsoft and IBM. The potential sparkle in the space could prove the disruptive If they really shine all bets are off and things could get interesting again. Until then expect Oracle to become extremely predictable. Yawn.

The maturisation of the corporate software industry is well and truly under way. Thank goodness we have consumer technology, the internet and wireless to keep us on our toes going forwards.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Philips to dump chip division?

Philips, the Dutch electronics group, has just given its clearest signal yet that it may sell or spin off its ailing semiconductor unit, saying it would consider “all options to bring value to shareholders”.

The company said it would start the process to create a separate legal structure - facilitating a sale or float - for the business. A sale looks the most likely outcome, but let's never underestimate the buying power and ego of private equity doods. After all, Siemens managed to make a go of keeping their spun off chip unit Infineon independent.

Looks like the chip industry continues it's path to consolidation whereby a handful of leading companies will find scale and own the space. Philips is wise to get out of chips and consumer facing technologies where they come from far too far behind.

Wise also are they for focusing on the more profitable businesses of medical equipment, lighting and appliances where they can be a world leader. It may create a less sexy group, but hey, it'll pay the bills better. Looks like Philips will survive after all.

Time Warner leads US market with Family Package

Time Warner Cable has just bounced ahead of the compwtition in the US by launching a family package. This looks like a very smart move.

The Time Warner service, known as the “Family Choice Tier”, consists of 15 channels: Boomerang, C-SPAN 2, C-SPAN 3, CNN Headline News, The Science Channel, Discovery Kids, Disney Channel, DIY Network, FIT-TV, Food Network, HGTV, La Familia, Nick Games & Sports, The Weather Channel and Toon Disney.

The package will cost subscribers $12.95 per month in addition to the $12 that most already pay for basic cable. Nice one guys. Where's the number for Time Warner Cable?

Blackberry under even more threat!

RIM's Blackberry has been further challenged as NTP has reached an agreement that allows privately held e-mail startup Visto to license NTP's technology for sending wireless e-mail, the same technology that's at the center of the patent dispute with RIM, owner of Blackberry. That makes three competitors, including Nokia and Good Technology, that are now NTP licensees. NTP also bought a stake in Visto.

This puts even more pressure than ever on Blackberry. Now NTP is not just a patent owner that is trying to make money by challenging RIM (and others), but it is a patent owner with an investment in businesses that compete directly with RIM's Blackberry.

This gives NTP a double benefit: a) they have likely strengthened their case against RIM and increased the value of a likely settlement and b) they can benefit directly from the concern that the market has over the whole dispute. Customers that are getting twitchy about Blackberry's patent dispute are likely to shift to the Visto's of this world.

NTP is proving smarter than many thought and could be providing interesting precedents for future patent shell companies. Of course the biggest benefactors in this whole battle are Microsoft and Nokia who must be laughing all the way to the bank. RIM has to settle this thing and settle it fast or they could end up stuffing it up for the Blackberry short, medium and long term.

Intel and BMW announce partnership

Intel, the world’s biggest semiconductor maker, has announced a wide-ranging partnership with the carmaker BMW, ranging from support for its Formula One racing team to co-operation on standards for in-car equipment.

Now that's whacky and controversial as AMD used to sponsor BMW's Formula One team, called Sauber (who?). And it's quite a far-ranging deal. BMW will use intel technology everywhere and computers with Intel chips in them as well as working together on next generation, standards based in-car equipment.

In-car technology is definitely getting more and more important and standards have to be the way to go. For instance, why can't I plug my iPod into a car to run it's music system? Why can't I plug a standard DVD player in to play directly to in-car screens? Why can't blue tooth connect my devices to in-car systems. Getting my mobile phone talking to in-car systems and it's speakers would be a good start.

Let's hope this is what these guys are going to focus on and good luck to them with Sauber (who?). I guess they're not quite Farrari yet!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Time Warner board challenged by Icahn over Case plan

Carl Icahn, the dissident investor forever challenging the Time Warner board has just been given a rather juicy morcel by AOL founder Steve Case. Case came out a few days ago saying that he backed Icahn's call for Time Warner to be split up into 4 and indeed suggested the idea to the board, when he was a board member, back in June. After the board disagreed, Case apparently resigned.

So Icahn has now gone public asking for the board to justify the reasons why they rejected Steve Case's suggestion. He is asking for board minutes and any analysis undertaken to justify their decision.

Finally, Icahn seems to have an issue that could put the current Time Warner board on the back foot. They had better have some good reasons for keeping the group together other than the usual coporate mumbo jumbo synergy, startegic...

The irony of all this is that Icahn may finally get Parsons off the fence and explaining his vision for the combined group. He seems to believe in it strongly and we here support the idea of keeping his content businesses and AOL together (not the cable business though). So, Mr Parsons, it seems you have plenty of supporters, you just need to communicate your strategy and vision for Time Warner more clearly to us all.

Icahn may force you to do that now in which case he has strangely done you a favor.

VNU receives takeover offer and struggles

VNU, the business information group still reeling from the collapse of its proposed merger with IMS Health, said it had received a takeover offer from an unnamed party and cut its sales forecast following a sluggish performance from AC Nielsen, its market research business.

What a mess. VNU, seems to be forever struggling with shareholder and now ownership issues whilst also struggling with the ongoing business. And one has to ask the question of whether AC Nielsen is prepared for the new digital age of TV ratings and research. Many an upstart could come forward to challenge them in their traditional approach to viewer analysis, which seems a little too finger in the air for the digital age.

So, VNU now has to find a new CEO, $1bn promised to shareholders and some cost savings to fund this and likely performance challenges. Good luck to you guys. I'm not quite sure I understand why the private equity doods are interested in this one - oh well.

Prodigy to be sold by AT&T

Prodigy, the original online business is to be sold. Current owner AT&T (ex SBC) has decided that they've had enough. They bought outright ownership of Prodigy in 2001. Prior to that it was a joint venture.

Like AOL, Compuserve and MSN, Prodigy has struggled as a hybrid ISP and bulked up portal. It's sad to see that Prodigy and Compuserve, who were the pioneers out of the four are the dinosaurs today. AOL and MSN have managed their evolution to free portal's more successfully.

Prodigy's value seems to be in it's fast growing Asian business. They'll need at least that. They're too late to the party to become a successful free ad based portal a la new AOL, MSN, Yahoo and Google and their dial up business is dying. So good luck to AT&T selling them - I think their gonna need it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Microsoft considers paying users to search

Microsoft is considering paying users to use its search engine to help it catch up with rival Google.

Well this is sure something I know about, having founded and run the original web currency and reward program beenz. I have to say that I think the idea could have some legs to it.

The question is whether Microsoft should reward users with cash back from the search related advertising dollars or create a global search based loyalty scheme a la beenz or air miles. In fact why doesn't Microsoft go one step further and launch Microsoft Miles or rewards. The more you use MSN or other internet related Micorosft products the more rewards you earn.

You could presumably redeem the rewards/points at the MSN shopping network. Now there's an idea. Let's see which portal see's the light first. Contact me if ya want guys. I can sure give some pointers.

Hey, perhaps we should launch businessuncut points. The more you read the more you earn. The more you comment the more you earn. Oh damn, I guess I'd have to launch the businessuncut shop then. How about businessuncut t-shirts. Ouch.

China worlds No1 exporter of information and communication products

China overtook the US as the world's biggest supplier of information and communications technology products last year according to OECD report just published. China exported $180 billion worth of information and communications technology last year. The US exported $149 billion.

China's share of global information and communications product trading, including imports and exports, rose from $35 billion in 1996 to $234 billion in 2003 and, finally, to $329 billion in 2004. The United States' share rose from $230 in 1996 to $301 billion in 2003 and finally to $375 billion in 2004.

And china is now buying an increasing amount of components from Asia, and Japan in particular. It was interesting how irrelevant Europe is becoming to such global studies.

The survey also proves that China and to a lesser extent India are fast becoming economies capable of competing globally in a great deal more product categories than just low cost manufactured products. Look out for Chinese cars, trucks, planes, games and software. The US and the EU will have to work incredibly hard to protect and develop their increasingly knowledge based economies and mantain their economic supremacy in the nedium term. The challenge is on.

Microsoft and MTV launching new music service

Just when I said in my last post that Microsoft was not getting innovative or bold enough with MSN and so losing the battle to Yahoo and Google they make an interesting move. MTV Networks and Microsoft have just announced that they will join forces to design and develop a new digital music service.

The service, to be called Urge, is due to launch in 2006 and will be integrated into a new version of Microsoft's Windows Media Player.

Plans call for the service to offer more than 2 million songs for download from major labels and independent ones, as well as original content and MTV Networks programs. MTV Networks is owned by Viacom.

Right when reports are coming out that iTunes sales may be down and iPod users could be suffering from being too costrained by Apple's iTunes only approach - along comes a boost for Microsoft and Media Player. If I was Jobs I would get more open with the iPod. Users should be able to access other music downloading services if he wants the iPod to become truly unbiquitous.

But, I'm convinced that Apple will give in in the end - they can't be dumb enough to screw up again by being too proprietary - look at how they lost out in the PC market. So, by the end of next year iPod users may even be able to access Real Networks or Napster or even MTV's service. Let's see. Come on Apple.

Microsoft and MCI launch VOIP telephony

Microsoft and MCI, soon to be taken over by Verizon, are the latest to announce the launch of a VOIP service. It will be available initially just from computer to phones but will develop from there. It will be offered to all users of MSN messanger.

The service will use technology from Teleo Inc., a small startup Microsoft acquired in August. Teleo's Internet telephony software lets people make voice calls by clicking on phone numbers appearing on a Web pages.

Customers will sign up for the computer-to-phone calling service through its new Windows Live Messenger software, which will eventually replace MSN Messenger, and buy prepaid calling time from MCI in $5, $10 and $25 blocks. MCI will handle account management, customer service and billing.

OK, so MSN is finally playing catch up with the Skype's, Yahoo's and AOL's of this world, but the service looks a little limited at this point. I can't see it exacly boosting their messanger or MSN numbers.

I just wonder when Microsoft and Time Warner will get more aggressive with MSN and AOL respectively. They seem to be playing a dangerous game of catch up to the more innovative Yahoo and Google. Maybe if MSN and AOL get together that might help. Somehow I doubt it.

Vodafone wins auction for leading Turkish operator

Vodafone won an auction today to buy Telsim, the number 2 mobile telecoms operator in Turkey, giving the UK group a foothold in one of the few European telecommunications markets that still has scope for growth.

This is an important win for Vodafone. Their footprint across Europe is now by far the most complete. The only major gap they have across all key European markets is France where they merely have a minority stake in SFR. Vivendi Universal owns the majority and seems determined not to sell. Maybe one day Vodafone should be more bold and take over all of the restructured Vivendi, much as they did with Mannesman of Germany. Now there's an idea!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Vacom's Paramount buys DreamWorks

Paramount film studios, part of Viacom, has purchased DreamWorks SKG for $1.6 billion in cash. Paramount has assumed DreamWorks debt.

The final deal gives Paramount access to 59 films in the DreamWorks' library, including Gladiator, American Beauty, War of the Worlds, Saving Private Ryan, and Catch Me if You Can, which Paramount plans to sell off.

Paramount takes over all of DreamWorks' current projects and creates an ongoing partnership with Steven Spielberg, who has directed some of DreamWorks' most successful films. Spielberg and David Geffen, are to produce four to six live-action films per year of the 14-16 films Paramount said it expects to make next year. This makes DreamWorks a vital part of Paramount going forwards.

For Paramount this is not just an acquisition of a studio and its catalogue of films, it is also just as importantly a partnership with Spielberg and Geffen. Such a partnership was clearly of less importance to NBC Universal and may be the a key reason why DreamWorks has been suddenly snatched by Paramount.

Yahoo gets serious about business blogging

Yahoo announced a deal today that allows bloggers to use Six Apart's Movable Type software to create blogs and host them on Yahoo's Small Business service.

Users get their own domain and business-class Yahoo mail for $12 per month.

Yahoo seems to be making a lot of announcements right now. Business blogging for small and medium sized businesses is a no brainer. In my view blogging should be used as a technology to get web sites up for next to no money that anyone can develop and manage themselves.

Companies should only invest in a more advanced web site and a web designer once they have proven the need through a blog site. Good move by Yahoo. Strange Google haven't done more with Oh well.

Yahoo buys

Yahoo has just announced buying, the social networking site that lets you store your favorite web sites and pictures and music and books and then tag them and share them with your friends or whoever.

Yahoo has been rampant this year in buying up web2.0 services sites and is another great exaample of this.

Like Google is shaping up to be the undisputed leader of search on the internet, Yahoo is shaping up to become the undisputed leader of services. The former providing the most critical tool for the web, the latter the most vital destination.

I'd use them both and invest in them both. I think they're significantly different and clearly leaders in their own category. Even if they both get closer to each other in terms of offerings and competition, they're sure shaping up to be the Coca-Cola and Pepsi of the internet.

Another good strike by Yahoo - now the balls over to you Google!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Viacom's Paramount set to bid for DreamWorks SKG

Viacom's Paramount is apparently poised to make an offer for DreamWorks SKG, the live-action movie company that has been in talks to be acquired by GE's NBC Universal.

DreamWorks struggled for a long time to close a deal with the nervous NBC after their sales stumbled and Spielberg revealed a lack of interest in the takeover. Perhaps Paramount has a little more appetite for risk and is more willing to give the DreamWorks team greater autonomy.

Interesting to note that this is the first potential deal for Viacom since splitting itself in two. It may even move their rather unexciting share price. But it's any guess in which direction it'll go!

VOIP all the rage

Yesterday Yahoo announced that they're about to launch VOIP telephony services to rival Ebay's Skype. Today the UK's leading telecom company, BT, has also announced that they're going to beat Skype at their own game and get aggressive about their own VOIP service that they say will be even cheaper than Skype's, particularly for international calls.

So, as Skype draws closer to having 100M users of their almost free VOIP service, the rest of the world seems to have had enough and are chucking their all into VOIP services also. Expect all fixed line telco's worldwide to follow as well as all portal's and a bunch of major shopping and community/content sites as well. If VOIP makes sense for Ebay, it should make sense for Amazon as well.

But for BT it is a bold move and one that has to cannibalise their existing near monopoly and highly lucrative fixed line telphone business. They don't seem to have a choice though and the fact that Skype is head officed in London cannot help. So, they are justifying their VOIP cut-throat service by the fact that they will win more and more broadband business.

And next year, like so many other leading fixed line telco's, BT is launching video on demand. The next 12 months will be critical for them. And they neeed to swiftly learn how to become part media company as well battling against Sky, the BBC and new media powerhouse, NTL.

EA to buy into mobile games

Electronic Arts (EA), the largest publisher of video games for consoles, yesterday moved to extend its dominance to games made for mobile devices with the $680m acquisition of Jamdat Mobile.

And it looks like they need it as sales are proving sluggish so far for the holiday season in the games console category. The reality is that only so many people can afford a games console at $300 and then individual games starting at $25. I want to give my son (who is nearly 6) an Xbox 360 this Xmas. The reality is that it will cost me a great deal more than just the $300 for the console. For there's no point me buying it for him if I don't get a handful of games. The chances of me getting away with spending much less that $500 are minimal.

Now, on a recent trip to London I bought the latest Sony Ericsson 3G mobile device. I got it free with Vodafone because they're subsidising the state of the art devices to get everyone to switch to 3G. And it had two games on it for free. I played them. They're fantastic. So I let my 6 year old boy have a go. He was instantly better than me at them both. So I bought some more games. At just over $5 a game they're great value. And with the powerful full feature phones of today with awesome screens I'm hooked.

So, EA is making the right move. Mobile gaming is the future and has to be far bigger than in-house gaming. But, they can't just convert console games to mobile. Making mobile games is a whole different art, so buying a specialist such as Jamdat makes great sense. EA will also need to be good at selling mobile games in Asia and Europe bacause that's where all the action is. The US mobile gaming market is backward and samll fry in comparison. And lastly EA has to play catch up in the mobile market. They are no where near the leaders they are in the console market. Good luck to them.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thurs - RIM moves to settle patent dispute

RIM has stated that they have held conversations with NTP via a court appointed arbitrator. They do seem to be at least attempting to negotiate a solution to the dispute. They clearly need to now as leading IT advisors Gartner and Forrester have suggested that IT bosses slow up on Blackberry implementations until the dispute is settled.

NTP, the owners of the patents that the Blackberry apparently infringes, have threatened to halt Blackberry sales in the US unless a settlement is met.

It's time for RIM to settle this thing once and for all. They're now risking way way more than the potential fines they would have to pay NTP. Their customers and investors are clearly and rightly getting spooked. And this could not happen at a worse time given that Microsoft and Nokia are finally presenting serious competiton to RIM.

So guys, put the patent dispute behind you, hug your customers hard and get back to the real battle - the battle for the market place. And think hard about whether you can go beyond email - if not I fear your gonna get stuck in an ever diminishing niche before too long.

Thurs - Carl Icahn now picking on Parsons

Oooh, the battle over Time Warner is getting personal.

Seeing as Dick Parsons isn't giving into the dissident shareholders, led by Carl Icahn, seeking huge share buybacks and a break up of the company - they've now resorted to slagging Parsons off personally.

They're even picking at what seem to be perfectly legitimate share sales by Parsons going back a few years. Who cares guys!

Sticks and stones... If I were you Parsons I'd be happy. If they have to resort to such petty games it probably means they're losing the battle. Just ignore them and go do a great deal with AOL.

Oh and maybe explain your vision for keeping Time Warner together under one roof. It sure makes sense to us.

Thurs - Intel and TI raise forecasts

Both Intel and TI raised forecasts today saying that the outlook remained strong going into next year. Intel even raised their estimates for all of 2006.

It seems that supply is very tight and so pricing power is in these guys favours. Their margins are, not suprisingly, healthy. Given all the excitement around electronic prduct sales at the moment, it's not at all strange that these guys are doing well.

And everything seems to be going in their favour. Mobile phone sales are soaring, digital camera sales are still flying and the world is gradually upgrading their TV's to bigger flat screens. Add to that the excitement around games consoles and digital musci players and electronics has never seen it so good.

Oh, and lets not forget media PC's and wirless laptops. Maybe I should buy Intel??

Thurs - Yahoo launches VOIP telephony to rival Skype

Yahoo will challenge the world’s leading VoIP service provider, Skype, with a phone service that allows Yahoo Messenger users to make and receive calls from computers to phones for as little as $0.01 or $0.02 per minute.

The service, scheduled to be launched in the next few days according to Reuters, will include a “Phone Out” service that will allow calls from computers to phones, and a low-cost subscription service called “Phone In” for callers connecting to computer users from a phone.

It is interesting to see just how similar the portal strategies are getting to the cable companies strategies. Cable started with offering TV and films, now their offering telephony and video on demand. The portal guys started with information and messaging, now there offering telephony (VOIP) and video on demand.

Could we therefore one day see Comcast merging with Google? Or Verizon merging with Yahoo! They're now all converging on eachother at an extremely fast pace. Next year will be fascinating.

Thurs - Virgin Mobile board rejects NTL bid

Virgin Mobile's board has rejected NTL's bid for the UK's leading virtual mobile phone operator. But Richard Branson, 72% owner of Virgin Mobile, has gone on record at a radio interview stating that it's gonna happen.

It looks like Branson is acting as honest broker between the two sides. He has even specified clearly that if NTL offer a little more then deal will get closed.

So, my bets on the deal happening and happening quickly. Then the UK will truly have a new media force to reckon with. And Branson's gonna be firmly behind it which means the powerful Virgin brand should be all over the new NTL. And NTL should get even more aggressive.

Sky and the BBC should be nervous. So too BT. NTL is about to become one hell of a new media/cable/telecoms powerhouse. We like the move.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wed - Cingular launches 3G network

Cingular Wireless, the largest US mobile carrier, launched its 3G network in 16 cities yesterday, becoming the first mobile network operator in the world to deploy a 3G network based on HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) technology.

Its BroadbandConnect service will be available initially in cities including Austin, Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. They plan to rapidly roll the network out across other cities next year.

HSPDA is the latest and fastest technology for GSM devices. HSDPA is the high-speed evolution of GSM/EDGE (Global System for Mobile Communication/Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution), which shares a common core network.

Verizon and Sprint Nextel have already launched their 3G services based on a rival technology from Qualcomm. The Cingular approach follows more widely adopted global GSM standards utilised by more than a billion mobile phone users worldwide.

Other mobile operators around the wotld that use GSM (the majority) will be watching Cingular with great interest as HSPDA is the next generation broadband wireless technology that many of them may move to soon.

I just wish the US operators would agree on a common standard for their networks. It would be so much better for consumers. Oh well.

Wed - Dutch government reduces stake in KPN

The European restructuring of the still overly regional and fragmented telecoms market continues as the Dutch government has reduced their stake in the counry's leading operator, KPN. They have also agreed to give up their veto rights on ownership, foreign acquisitions etc.

The government halved its stake to 8%, selling 60m shares back to KPN for €500m, which KPN said it would cancel, and 105m shares to ABN Amro, the Dutch bank. It also said it would dispose of its “special share” before the end of the year.

Let's hope the Swiss government follow their lead after the diaboligal fiasco of them blocking Swisscom's attempts to grow through acquisitions abroad. Europe soon needs to get to the point where the market is dominated by less than 10 major players that operate across the whole of Europe. The process is under way and at least it is getting clearer who the obvious contenders are: Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Vodafone. The rest will need to bulk up rapidly to stand any chance against these guys.

The tier two players that stand the best chance via M&A to join the above list include TeliaSonera, Telenor, BT, KPN and possibly Swisscom, 3 and WIND. But they need to get going fast if they want to keep up with the big guys.

Wed - Microsoft's latest anti-trust ruling

South Korea’s antitrust watchdog today ordered Microsoft to pay a Won33bn (US$31.9m) fine and unbundle its Messenger and Media Player from its Windows operating system, a move which might force the software giant to withdraw from the country.

This follows the EU ruling against Microsoft and is yet another blow to the software giant. Microsoft has threatened to pull out of S Korea if the ruling went against them. It will be interesting to see if they have the courage to carry their threat out. I'm not sure it would be the wisest move.

It is also interesting to note how much noise the whole bundling startegy at Microsoft has created world wide, how many fines Microsoft has had to pay and how much bad will it has created with world authorities. Lets see if they continue the practices and how they may translate in an internet services oriented world.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tues - Microsoft launches new CRM software

Microsoft's slow growing business apllications division, one of its seven business units is announcing a new CRM package. It'll need to be strong to stand up to the powerful competition from SAP, Oracle and

By tying the software closely to Outlook, the e-mail and calendar software included in Office, the launch also marks a new attempt by Microsoft to win over more users by drawing on the broad use of its desktop software. There are 400M users of Office.

However, the factors that have held back Microsoft’s growth so far in the applications business, where it competes with giants such as SAP and Oracle, could continue to hamper it. Apparently “Microsoft’s biggest problem is its [sales] channel,” according to Bruce Richardson, chief research officer at AMR Research.

Since it sells mainly through partners, the company does not have the close links with customers that rivals enjoy, he said, adding: “The good news is, it has a lot of people selling software; the bad news is, it loses its relationship with the customer.”

Revenues at Microsoft Business Solutions, one of the company’s seven business divisions, grew by only 5% last year, to $793m, or 2% of the company’s total revenues.

This is an interesting tack by Microsoft. They seem to be launching applications where the core benefit is tight integration with Office and an ease of use and GUI similar to Office. I'm not sure yet whether this strategy is more designed to benefit Microsoft or the users.

And it feels to me like these application moves may be better designed to serve the SME market than large corporates. Interestingly so are Microsofts sales channels. Maybe they should take advantage of this focus and worry a little less about the corporate market that SAP, Oracle and IBM serve so well. Just a thought.

Tues - Sun launches innovative new server line

Sun Microsystems is taking a bold step in its bid to reverse its sliding market share with the announcement of a new line of servers based on an innovative processor that has up to eight “cores”, or brains.

By making it possible to handle more computing tasks on a single chip, while also reducing the electrical power needed to run the machines, the new servers represent a crucial part of Sun’s attempt to stem the loss of customers to the low-cost, standardised servers based on processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

The "Niagara" servers are a big bet for the company that continues to try and buck industry standard server design and one that desperately needs to differentiate their higher cost servers against the likes of Dell and HP and to try and keep up with the IBM's etc.

Sun are making a lot of bets at the moment and a lot of announcements. Let's hope their fortunes improve for the long term. They certainly are an innovator. I can't help feeling though that they still need a transformative M&A deal to really steer them out of the woods for the long term.

Tues - Ericsson annouces deal with 3 UK

Ericsson has landed one of the largest ever mobile managed service contracts with 3UK, the leading 3G mobile phone company. Ericsson will manage all of 3UK's advanced mobile data network across the country.

Ericsson already have deals in place with 3 Italy and 3 Australia. The 3 Italy deal is worth $1.75-2.5bn. The 3UK deal is apparently larger.

This looks like a smart deal by both parties. As 3 grow internationally, passing the management of the network to a specialist such as Ericsson so that they can focus on services, applications, content and marketing may well be a sensible model for other mobile operators going forwards.

Tues - UK's online friends network sold to ITV

ITV, leading UK TV network, has won the auction to buy Friends Reunited, the website that helps trace long-lost friends, from its founders and employees for an initial $200M, as it seeks revenue streams outside its core television advertising business.

The broadcaster will make a further $95M payment in 2009 depending on whether Friends Reunited achieve performance targets.

So, TV company buys leading community web site. Convergence between traditional media and the internet just keeps going. It will be interesting to see how ITV develop the business and how they cross-promote and integrate it with their TV channels.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Mon - Verizon to sell directories business

Verizon Communications is considering whether to sell or spin off its directory business so it can concentrate more on providing wireless, data and fixed-line services.

Based on similar sales in the past, the Verizon division could sell for $17 billion, or 10 times its 2004 profit before taxes of $1.7 billion. Qwest Communications, the smallest of the four big Bell operating companies, sold its directories business for $7 billion in August 2002.

This seems to make a lot of sense. The directories business is getting more competitive and complicated as specialist directory firms such as Yell vie for market share with the internet companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Online is clearly the future.

It will be very revealing to see who buys them. Could it be Google? This looks like the kind of transformative and yet safe deal that might be worth their attention. Verizon is smart getting out now while valuations are high.

Mon - Novell flying

Software maker Novell reported a strong 4th quarter, more than doubling analysts' estimates by posting earnings of $320 million.

Banc of America Securities analyst Kirk Materne credited a robust performance at the company's Linux operating system unit, which grew sales 41% over last year's 4th quarter to $61 million. Materne lifted his 2006 earnings projection, citing expected future cost reductions that figure to improve margins.

Open source is clearly picking up steam and Novell is emerging as an interesting bell weather. This should bode well for Sun Microsystems who is also increasingly betting the farm on open source. Microsoft needs to watch these two very carfully.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sunday - NTL to buy Virgin Mobile?

Rumours seem to be spinning around this weekend that NTL, the UK's leading cable group which is planning to merge with Telewest, is in discussions to buy Richard Branson's Virgin Mobile.

Branson owns 72% of Virgin Mobile. Under the terms of the deal, Branson would trade his Virgin Mobile shares for NTL stock, becoming the cable company’s largest shareholder with a stake of about 14%, it seems.

This is yet another sign of media, telecomms and the internet converging. And is Branson likely to allow NTL to use the all powerful Virgin brand across all the NTL offerings? So, the UK could see the awakening of Virgin Cable, Virgin Telephony alongside Virgin Mobile.

This could be a very smart move by Branson. It may well make sense for Virgin Mobile UK. I'm a little more concerned about what happens to Virgin Mobile in countries outside the UK? Would they remain independent? I guess we'll find out soon. And who said the media conglomerate was dead. Oh, we did!! (see businessuncut daily!).

Friday, December 02, 2005

Fri - Dissidents plan Time Warner break-up

Carl Icahn, Time Warners dissident shareholder speaking for 3% of the group, and Bruce Wasserstein, head of Lazard seem to be concocting a plan to split Time Warner into four separate companies as well as to replace the board with a new set of media lumineries. Their plan still needs to be finalized though.

Carl Icahn has already called for them to spin off 100% of their cable division. But, the suggested break-up at Time Warner would go further, leading to four companies: Time Warner Cable; the AOL internet business; the Time Inc publishing business; and the content business consisting of the Warner Brothers studios and cable channels such as HBO and CNN.

At the very least this will now pit the much respected Parsons, Chairman and CEO of Time Warner, against Icahn. Parsons believes that Time Warner is better off as one, integrated media conglomerate. Icahn clearly disagrees. I can see how Icahn's plan could potentially unclock short term shareholder value, but I struggle a little with the longer term strategic benefits, particularly in the new, more intergrated digital age.

Looks like Time Warner's in for one hell of a fight though. I wonder what will happen to AOL in the short term? There supposed to be negotiating a deal with Microsoft or Google. That seems to have gone strangely quiet. Mind you, I'm sure we'll see Parsons come out fighting soon.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thurs - Microsoft to launch online listings service

Microsoft is after Google. It's official. After the somewhat over hyped launch of live! Microsoft has now followed Googles launch of Google Base, the online listings service and has announced that they are about to launch their own version called Fremont.

MSN, Microsoft’s online services arm, has been testing a new service that would let internet users enter details of personal items in a specially designed database. Information in the database would then be made search-able by Microsoft’s internet search engine, or could be restricted to a limited group of personal contacts.

The service, code named Fremont, a reference to a Seattle neighbourhood that plays host to a busy Sunday market, has been available in test form to Microsoft employees since last week, and could be set for a public test in the coming weeks.

I'd get increasingly worried if I was any traditional newspaper, national or local. The trend is clear. Online listings, classifieds and directories are moving online. That's the future.

Thurs - Sun embraces open source as its future

Sun Microsystems took another big step towards reinventing itself as an open source software, systems and services company by announcing that key software tools will in the future be provided at no cost to developers and others.

Sun began offering customers its Solaris operating system as free open source software earlier this year, said it will now provide its Java Enterprise System, Sun N1 Management software, and Sun developer tools available at no cost for both development and deployment.

Sun also said it is integrating all of this software along with the Solaris operating system into the Solaris Enterprise System, to form what it claims is, “the only comprehensive and open infrastructure software platform available today.”

This is a head on attack to Microsoft Windows, apps and tools as was as Linux plus apps and tools. This looks shrewd. By getting the sun O/S and development tools, with Java, out to the wider community they should drive greater demand for their enterprise applications as well as their servers. They genuinly could become the open source competitor of choice to Miscrosoft if they move fast and get it right.

My money's on Sun making an interesting transition to a company based more on software and services rather than proprietary boxes. The question deep down is do they have the scale to pull this off. And if not, who should they merge with? How about Google - now there's a curve ball!!

Thurs - Skype launches video calling

Skype, the London-based internet phone call service bought by eBay in September, will add full-screen video from today in a substantial upgrade to compete with features provided by Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL instant messaging systems.

Skype, with 66m users registered worldwide but only 15% of them in the US, has also launched a big push in eBay’s home market. Looks very interesting. Where do I sign up.

Thurs - France's top 3 mobile operators fined

France’s top three mobile telephone operators have been fined a record $629.5m by the country’s competition watchdog for market collusion over a six-year period.

The Competition Council said today that Orange France, which is part of France Telecom, Bouygues Telecom and Vivendi Universal-controlled SFR had exchanged confidential commercial information during the period from 1997 to 2003.

Oops, guys!

Thurs - finally has a future secured

Egg, the leading UK online financial services company, finally has a secure future. It's parent, leading UK financial services group, the Prudential, who launched the business in the go-go days of the late '90's, has decided not to sell Egg after all.

The Prudential has been trying to sell Egg for a few years now, but with considerable losses from it's expensive foray into the French market, buyers were hard to find. So, I guess now that the Prudential has seen the value of the Egg business in the UK, they have decided to buy the remaining 19% of shares they do not own and re-intergrate the company.

I guess this is yet another sign that interent companies are popular again.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Wed - Walt Disney narrows bidders for ABC Radio

Walt Disney, has narrowed the field of bidders for its ABC Radio division. The move that should pave the way for a sale of the unit before the end of the year. Analysts have estimated the unit could be valued at between $2bn and $3bn.

There are apparently only three bidders left. They include Entercom Communications of Pennsylvania, Cumulus Radio of Georgia – which recently acquired a large portfolio of radio assets from Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff, a Pennsylvania-based conglomerate – and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the US private equity group that unexpectedly emerged as a player in the race in recent days.

Disney’s radio group includes 72 stations, with 44 in the top 25 markets. In 2004, Disney group reported an estimated $710m in revenue.

The company decided to consider a sale following the appointment of Bob Iger as the new chief executive, which prompted a review of all the media group’s assets – which include theme parks, animated film production, film studios and the ABC television group.

A sale of its radio unit would represent another step in the reshaping of the global media industry, which is haveing to cope with depressed stock prices and increased competition from telecommunications providers and technology providers. Media Conglomerates are getting the worse of it and breaking up seems the shortest route to boosting share prices. Time Warner should pay heed.

Wed - TDC to be finally sold - oh, please!

Nordic Telephone Company (NTC), a private equity consortium led by Apax, has finally announced an agreed cash bid for TDC, valuing the Danish telecoms group at $12bn.

TDC’s board said it would recommend the bid, but the agreement does not rule out the telecoms group’s freedom to consider an alternative offer.

Please God, let's hope this is the end of the saga and TDC can stop hogging the business press and get back to being the relatively uninteresting regional phone company that it is.

Wed - Cingular and Orange announce global partnership

Cingular Wireless, the largest US mobile carrier, and Orange, the European wireless group, agreed to work together to provide consolidated mobile services to multinational companies with operations in both the US and Europe.

Companies with operations in the US, Britain, France, Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland will be able to manage their wireless usage through a Web portal called WorldView Wireless Information Navigator – a service that Cingular inherited when it acquired AT&T Wireless earlier this year.

Companies will also be able to use minutes from their home country while roaming. It also looks like consolidated billing will be on the cards. Shame though that such mobile partnerships are still not attacking the core issue of how to get international roaming charges down. Now there's an opportunity!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tues - traditional retailers stage comeback online

For the last handful of years the likes of Amazon and Ebay have ruthlessly dominated online shopping in the US. Now it seems that the traditional retailers are staging a powerful comeback.

The number of online visitors to Wal-Mart, Target and Circuit City more than doubled on the Friday after Thanksgiving against last year. So, while Ebay's traffic slipped 8% to 9.4M and Amazon's grew 11% to 4.6M unique users,'s soared 120% to 3.3M users, Target's increased 143% to 2.9M users, Best Buy increased 75% to 2.1M users and Circuit City's doubled to 1.7M users.

So, Ebay is still No1, Amazon is No2, No3 etc etc. And the value of online shopping for the beginning of the holiday season looks good with Visa US stating that spending on its cards on online purchases increased 32% to %544M on Friday and Saturday.

So, it looks like the "brick and mortar" retailers are finally learning how to compete against the pure play etailers, by combining physical stores with online efforts. Expect this trend to continue.

Tues - TDC finally gets bought?

It looks like one of the longer running and more tedious take-overs is about to get concluded. TDC, the somewhat uninteresting Danish telecoms group, that has been hogging the business press for the last 6 months looks like it might finally get bought and can become uninteresting again.

And for all the press it looks as though the bidding war we all hoped for to end this episode on a at least a slightly exciting note will not happen after all. The lead bidder, a buy-out group led by Apax seems to be set to win because the other bidders are having trouble getting their bids in.Mmmm.

To be more specific, Swisscom has been stopped from bidding by the Swiss government who owns them and has decided in their infinite wisdom that international expansion does not make any sense. And the rival private equity group led by BC Partners is having trouble filing their bid in time.

So it looks like TDC will go to the Apax group for $11.5bn and at least go down in the books as one of the largest leveraged buy-outs. Unless of course BC Partners decide to inspire us all a little longer by trunping the bid, in which case it would be a larger leveraged buy-out. I'm all for Apax getting the deal mainly so TDC stops hogging the wires!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mon - "Click to Call" web adverts the next big thing

Google has now all but announced their "Click to Call" service which is presumably aimed at small businesses who do not have web sites. Now, you can place an ad on Google's sites that has a little picture of a telephone on it. The consumer clicks on the ad and is then prompted to enter their telephone number in a pop-up box. Once their telephone number is entered then Google automatically dial the number and connect the merchant with the consumer.

This could be big. It seems that the Kelsey Group believe that this infant market for "Click to Call" could be worth between $1.4 and $4bn by 2009. Mind you, they've given themselves such a wide margin for error that you've gotta monder how much finger in the air magic was involved. None the less, for those consumers who are OK with telesales calls to their home, this could be the way to go. I'm still a little confused about who pays for the call, but there ya go.

And it seems as though "Click to Call" is catching on with Ebay, Yahoo and AOL all launching services. Theirs differ though in approach and seem a little less slick than Google's. So, "Click to Call", along with Google Base, could prove yet another major nail in the coffin for traditional press listings and yellow pages companies.

Mon - Swiss government stops Swisscom from growing abroad

The Swiss government has just set of a major controversy both at home and abroad as they seek to scupper Swisscom's attempts at growing internationally by acquiring Eircom of Ireland and maybe even TDC, the Dutch operator.

So as the Swiss government reminds us all of just how important it is in this modern world to ensure that governments are kept as far away as possible form the running of their countries companies, I can't help feeling that they will not back down.

And like a Swiss army penknife going through soft swiss chocolate (ooh, its making me hungry), it looks like the government may end up having to sell off Swisscom to ensure they cannot interfere again. But, this may not happen soon enough to halt the scuppering of deals with Eircom and TDC or even the en masse resignation of the top team at Swisscom.

All this just so that the Swiss government don't lose the nice dividends they get from Swisscom every year. And who said the Swiss were diplomatic and balanced.

Mon - 3 Italis set for IPO and acquisition

3 Italia, the third generation mobile phone company owned by Hutchison Whimpoa, said its IPO should take place in the first quarter of 2006. This could make it the first big IPO of the new year.

3 also announced that they are buying the Italian TV station Canale 7, proving that people other than Silvio Berlusconi can actually own TV stations in Italy. 3 stated that they'll set up a network to supply their 4.8M customers (haven't they done well) with pay-TV and interactive services to their 3rd generation mobile devices.

It seems that positioning themselves as a media company will make them worth more at the IPO than as a straight forward telco. I hope they're doing this for more than just their valuation as merging advanced mobile networks with media assets has to be the future. That's the real reason they can be worth more.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Fri - consumer electronics sales to be big this Xmas

It looks like consumer electronics sales are set to grow nicely this Xmas in the US in particular, according to the CEA. And digital music players are the number one choice.

The CEA’s annual Holiday Spending Survey tracks the consumer electronics devices consumers intend to give as gifts, as well as those they hope to receive. Digital music players topped both lists this year displacing the digital camera at the top of last year’s gift list and the plasma TV at the top of last year’s wish list. The survey showed consumer interest in buying a portable digital music player has risen eight percentage points from 2004, to 28 per cent.

It also seems that consumers are buying into convergence products such as mobile phones that are also camera's and/or music players. Notice that the Xbox isn't at the top of the list.

Fri - Ecclestone sells Formula 1 again

Bernie Ecclestone, founder and head of Formula 1 has sold the company to Cinven Capital Partners. This is now the second time he has sold Formula 1.

He will remain in charge of the business that turns over more than $1bn by managing and selling the rights to the Formula 1 car racing franchise.

Fri - Murdoch on future of traditional classified ads

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of News Corp, continues his drubbing of traditional print media in favour of digital advertising by stating yesterday that he believes that classified ads in print newspapers will migrate to the internet.

He partly believes that its an age issue as under 30's just don't seem to be interested at all in classifieds on print. They want online ads.

Well Murdoch certainly isn't wrong. I just wonder whether even he is underestimating the speed at which advertising of all sorts, not just classifieds, will shift to the internet and soon to mobile phones.

And the internet advertising market keeps moving forwards and innovating. The next big thing that Google has started offering is click-to-call wherebye you click on an online ad and it enables the advertiser to call you. This could be powerful. And Ebay has bet on it big time with their acquisition of Skype.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thurs - RIM reduces outlook for new subscribers

RIM announced yesterday that it would have to reduce its outlook for new subscribers because of delays in shipping 2 new devices, the new BlackBerry 8700 and 7130. This sent their share price down.

RIM seems to be stumbling this year. As well as being challenged on meeting their aggressive growth numbers, they also face a potentially expensive patent dispute that just won't go away.

It does though look to me that even though in the short term Blackberry continues to do ok, they have just surpassed 4M users, they are perhaps starting to feel the pressures of an increasingly competitive market. After all, with 3G technology becoming increasingly pervasive and Wi-Fi hotspots popping up everywhere, they will get increasingly squeezed by mobile phone companies on one side and wireless laptops on the other.

And with competition from the likes of Nokia, Microsoft, Motorola and a potentially stronger Palm, I think that Blackberry's glory days may be waning. As mobile phones get better and better at doing wireless email, can Blackberry really survive the onslaught from the all powerful handset manufacturers? I'm not so sure. But then, that's just me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wed - Hollywood does a deal to halt web piracy

The US movie industry won an important breakthrough in its fight against online piracy yesterday as it struck a deal with BitTorrent, the creator of a technology that is widely used for copying movies and TV shows illegally over the internet.

By creating a quicker way to download data-intensive video files, BitTorrent's technology has become the basis for the first widespread internet distribution of movies and TV shows. Wisely, the Motion Picture Association of America has agreed to help BitTorrent turn their technology into one which focuses on enabling the legal distribution of movies and TV.

Under the agreement, the search engine at will remove links to any pirated material. The agreement could also lead to the eventual adoption of BitTorrent's technology by the studios. It does at least seem as though the movie industry is learning from the painful lessons of the music industry, who failed for so long to curb web piracy.

It will also be interesting to see if BitTorrent can make it to become a legal service - after all, all attempts in the music industry failed. But, hey, BitTorrent also announced raising a bunch of money with a VC. Oh, that should do it!!

Wed - Greg Maffei makes his first move as head of Liberty Media

Greg Maffei, ex CFO of both Oracle and Microsoft, has made his first move as CEO of Liberty Media. He and John Malone (Chairman) have made their first foray into the increasingly lucrative market for online games by buying a 51% stake in Fun Technologies for $195M.

Fun, which is listed in Toronto and London, specialise in online versions of skill games such as solitaire, chess and Sudoku. It seems that online skill games are growing as fast as online gambling with players rising at an astonishing rate of 30% per quarter.

Expect this to be the first of a few acquisitions by Liberty Media in the growing online games market. My guess is that Greg Maffei and John Malone will prove to be a compelling and successful team together. Liberty Media should have an exciting future.

Wed - Sony Ericsson moves up in world rankings

Sony Ericcson has pushed LG Electronics out of the number four position in global mobile handset sales in the 3rd quarter thanks to strong demand for its Walkman phone.

The other interesting fact now is that Nokia and Motorola have further cemented their positions as number 1 and 2 respectively. Both of them saw market share gains and are pulling further ahead of the pack and ahead of Samsung in particular in 3rd slot.

As the mobile phone industry gets bigger and bigger, the rules of scale are applying, with the number 1 and number 2 seeing the greatest profits and as a result the greatest returns, which they can then invest in further market share gains. Expect it to continue.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tues - Google to put culture on the internet

Google has just thrown its weight behind an ambitious and controversial plan to put the world's cultural memory online.

The plan, which is US-led and hatched by the Library of Congress, would create digital copies of the large stores of historical manuscripts, personal diaries, voice recordings and other cultural items held by national libraries around the world.

Google has donated $3M for the initial work of devising technical standards and carrying out pilot studies for the project, known as the World Digital Library.

This could well lead to challenges from foreign governments and bodies seeking to protect their cultural IP. Goog luck to the Library of Congress and Google for trying to take the lead and for being willing to take on likely challengers. This is a good one for society. We wish them well.

Tues - Intel to Manufacture "Nand" flash memory

Intel broadened its relationship with Apple and announced a joint venture with Micron Technology to manufacture "Nand" flash memory chips for the iPod.

"Nand" is faster than "Nor" flash, used in many mobile phones, for handling music and images. Intel's "Nand" JV will provide a direct challenge to Samsung, the leading manufacturer of "Nand" flash memory.

In further evidence of Apple's strategic shift to "Nand" technology for their iPods going forwards they have pre-paid $1.25bn to secure flash memory until 2010. This move has enabled Apple to entice other key chip manufacturers to start developing "Nand" chips while also providing them with a competitive weapon against other digital music device makers who may struggle to secure chips at such competitive prices.

Apple will now be able to tap Intel/Micron, plus Hynix and Toshiba as well as Samsung. This makes Apple less dependant on one supplier (Samsung) for such a critical component. Solid move Apple.

Tues - Reuters teams up with AOL & MSN messaging

Reuters has agreed that their messaging services will become compatible with AOL and MSN. Now Reuters 300,000 odd highly charges trader and broker customers will be able to chat with their families and mates on AOL or MSN. Not an earth shattering deal, but proof that the days of messaging interoperability are here to stay.

Come on Yahoo - time for you to make some moves or you'll get left behind. How about Google?

Tues - Online advertising soars in US

Internet advertising revenues in the US reached $3.1bn in the last quarter. This is the highest ever recorded and a 34% increase on the same period last year.

And the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) said the total spent on internet advertising could exceed $12bn this year, way above last years record of $9.6bn. The largest chunk of this online advertising now comes from search based advertising, a la Google. Poor old DoubleClick, they have faded into the shadows thanks to Google and search based advertising.

This will provide yet more evidence of two critical trends that will contiunue well into the future. The first is that online advertising is here to stay and will continuously grow for the next many years. The demise of traditional advertising has only just begun. But it will be brutal going forwards. The second is that search based advertising in general will absolutely change the software industry. Software will be sold as services and advertising will be how software companies will earn their money going forwards - particularly to consumers.

So, anyone wanting to start a new company, you can't go much wrong by launching a necessary online software service backed up by Google ads. And if your a traditional media company - get into the internet in a bigger and better way fast or you'll leave all the money to Google, Yahoo etc.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Mon - Tivo announces deal with iPod

Tivo has just announced a contraversial agreement with Apple for viewers to be able to download programmes recorded on their Tivo device to a video iPod. This puts them in a direct clash with the TV studios who may now try and stop them.

There are some fascinating intellectual copyright issues up for grabs here that could set some interesting precedent for the future. For consumers it is clearly a good thing. Tivo sure likes rocking the boat with the TV stations.

Mon - Microsoft goes boom with the Xbox

Microsoft starts selling the Xbox in the US at midnight tonight. Finally they have a real steal on the competition in the vital games console market. They also now have their second key connected device to penetrate the worlds living rooms.

And Microsoft have a huge one year lead over their rivals, for the next generation of Sony's and Nintendo's new devices are not expected to start shipping until next October or even November.

And Microsoft are not a company to waste such a lead. Expect Xbox sales to take off starting tonight. This should allow Microsoft to take their share of the market for video games consoles to a close second to Sony by the end of next year. That leaves Nintendo in trouble.

And finally it looks like the much heralded dawn of true multimedia, connected games consoles for the bright screen, AI, bradband world is on us. Better get down to your local Best Buy fast. Where are my car keys!

Mon - Cisco and Sciantific-Atlanta

Well, I guess everyone is after the living room. Microsoft are going in via two routes - the Xbox and the PC Media Centre, Apple are going in via the iPod and now Cisco are betting its the future by spending a whopping $6.9bn to buy Scietnific-Atlanta, the 2nd largest maker of set-top boxes for the cable industry.

And by linking up SA's set-top boxes with Cisco's Linksys wireless home router, you could conceivably hook up all your digital devices from the set-top box, so delivering cable to multiple TV's for example.

And SA gives Cisco access to the cable companies as they provide key back end sytems for them, but their latest set-top boxes also provide a digital video recorder, DVD player and burner. So, they could actually provide stiff competition for Microsoft's Madia Centre via the cable companies but direct to the consumer. This could prove the first time that Cisco goes up against Microsoft in a serious way.

So, the SA deal looks a shrewd one for Cisco. And our living rooms and houses are going to come seriously into play for yet another of Silicon Valleys most powerful players. Hang on to your TV's folks - they're about to get lit up big time!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Fri - TDC now officially in play

TDC has received a firm offer from a buy-out consortium that values Denmark's leading telecoms group at more than $11.5 bn. This also marks the formal kick-off for the bidding war over TDC.

The bidders should include two buy-out groups. There is the Apax led team that have made the offer and all the running so far, but hot on their heals are a rival buy-out group comprising Apollo, BC Partners, Cinven and Silver Lake.

The wild card could be Swisscom. Either way, it looks as though TDC will soon have new owners and the European telco consolidation process takes another step forward. After all, if the buy-out groups triumph they will presumably use TDC as a vehicle to become a consolidator itself in the European market or ensure that it swiftly becomes a target.