Friday, March 31, 2006

Google launches local online ads service

Google has just launched a service which allows advertisers buy ads displayed on specific geographic locations on its popular online mapping and local search service. The move further extends the reach of its ad network and potentially lets Google tap into local marketing dollars that traditionally go to phone directories and other media.

This will also prove a useful service for Google wireless users on the go. The service provides a small logo - such as a coffee cup for a coffee shop - that when clicked on provides details of the advertiser.

This is a good move by Google and should help them expand their ad revenues. Google and Yahoo driving into the classifieds and local ad market is a natural for them and an area ripe for their services and digital value add. With Google Base, Maps and local search they have many of the bases covered - now they just have to get the consumers!

Toshiba launches worlds first HD-DVD players

Toshiba on Friday began selling the world’s first next-generation DVD player in Japan, stealing a march on rival Sony, which plans to sell a competing optical disc format later this year.

Bic Camera, a leading Japanese electronics retailer, said its Yurakucho store in central Tokyo had sold out by 4pm. The company is expected to launch versions priced at $499 and $799 in the US by mid-April, to coincide with Warner Home Video’s launch of HD-DVD software on April18.

Sony will launch their Blu-Ray competing hi-definition DVD player later this year. Two standards will of course be a nightmare. Most consumers would be wise to wait a year or so and see which standard wins out. Toshiba has the tech giants behind them, but Sony has the hollywood studios.

Ultimately it will be he with the most content that wins - so on the face of things Sony has the real head start. And there will only be a few hundred DVD titles converted to either format by the end of this year. So, the launch of these two new DVD standards is exciting - but one for the future!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Nokia's shares bounce up as they predict greater handset sales this year

Nokia's shares bounced up nearly 5% today as they predicted that 2006 would deliver even better handset sales globally than previously estimated. They had expected 10% growth from last years total of just under 800M. Now they expect 15% year on year growth.

Analysts said the strong growth was coming from emerging markets. To benefit from it, Nokia also announced three new low-priced phone models in China, and said it expects to sell them all in "tens of millions."

But they will not be the only ones to chase such markets and low end devices, for this year Sony Ericsson and Samsung will join the mass market battle. Nokia though feels confident as they apparently enjoy a 20% cost advantage over rivals in cheaper phones.

And you need it at the volume end - cos the margins are miniature. But 2006 looks set to be another stellar year for all the leading handset makers.

Microsoft's Windows Live Mail goes into test

This week, Microsoft served up the first test version of Windows Live Mail Desktop, a free Windows program that will let users manage multiple e-mail accounts. The software is designed to work with Windows Live Mail, the successor to Hotmail that is also in beta testing.

It will go fully live at the end of 2006 and will allow users to access multiple accounts through one window. Yep, that would even include Gmail and Yahoo Mail! Wow, how nice - Microsoft are rising above competitor spats to deliver a service of real potential value to users.

Best Buy has a great last quarter

Proving yet again that electronics is the place to be (just so long as your not RadioShack) Best Buy reported a sizzling quarter ending February.

Earnings rose 13% in the quarter, as consumers spent more on big-ticket items like flat-panel TV's, digital music players and laptops. Revenue rose across all of its channels, led by a 50% upswing in online sales.

Demand for flat-panel TVs and MP3 players drove a 17.7% jump in same-store sales of consumer electronics. No wonder they're always out of iPods! And Best Buy expect to beat analyst expectations for 2006 with revenues around $35bn.

They certainly have cracked successful electronics retailing in the US. Now lets see if they can do it abroad as well.

MySpace cleans up its act

MySpace, the fast-growing community website hugely popular with American teens, has removed 200,000 “objectionable” profiles from its site as it steps up efforts to calm fears about the safety of the network for young users.

Apparently these profiles were obscene or just "a little too edgy". MySpace is clearly moving to clean up it's act after some bad press recently around teen stalkers at the site.

But none of the press has affected MySpace negatively. They now have a massive 66M users (which is nearly as big as Ebay!!) and are signing up another 250,000 per day. Is anyone not a member of MySpace?

Murdoch must be beside himself. And it looks like his half a billion for the teen site was a snip at the price.

Google files to sell over 5M shares

Google has filed to sell another 5M shares. It will add over $2bn to their already meaty coffers. Could it mean more acquisitions are on the way.

The sale would mark the third time that the Internet search giant has tapped the equity markets. Google filed for a secondary stock offering in August 2005, raising more than $4bn a year after it went public. The company had more than $9 billion in cash and investments at the end of 2005.

With over $11bn in the bank Google could pull off some transformational M&A moves. Speculation is bound to permeate the airwaves over the next few weeks. Or how about a hi-speed Wi-Fi/WiMax network across the US?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ooh, Ebay in court too

Well, it's quite a day for tech giants and high courts. As Apple celebrates their 30th birthday by going to the UK high courts thanks to a tussle with the Beatles (see the last post), Ebay defend themselves in the US Supreme Courts.

And should they fail they may even face an injunction. Ebay was found by lower courts to have infringed 2 e-commerce patents owned by MercExchange, a small tech company. They concern the "buy it now" feature on the site, which allows users who don't want to take part in an auction to buy an item at a fixed price.

But isn't that what you can do at any commerce site? I buy at fixed prices at Amaxon, iTunes etc etc. Isn't it really the same thing? How can these guys have a patent on it?

Anyway, should Ebay fail they may have to settle for large chunks of change. The tech industry seems very much behind Ebay on this one and I wholly agree. Some of these patent disputes are going too far and could end up in stifling innovation for all of us. Good luck Ebay!

The Beatles take Apple to court!

The Beatles have taken Apple to court in a long standing row over the name Apple. For the Beatles own Apple Corp which shares the fruity logo. They had a painful legal battle over the name in the '80's, which settled in 1991 with Apple paying up to $26M (apparently) to enable them to keep using the name. With limited use in the music industry.

Thanks to iTunes and the iPod, the Beatles Apple Corp has the US computer company in the UK's high court over breach of the last agreement. And if your not confused enough by now I'll just cut to the chase.

I guess it wil be hard to prove that Apple is not heavily into the music industry thanks to their new Internet services and iPod player. Even though they are a distributor and not creator or publisher of music. The likely outcome will be another large chunk of change going from Apple Computers to the Beatles.

And the high court judge is even a self-confessed iPod fan. Does anyone not have an iPod?! I even have one now - mmm, nice! Anyway, the press surrounding the case and the likely hike to iPod sales as a result of it (as if they need any help flogging the little players), should more than offset by any payments to the Beatles.

Microsoft's Vista challenged by the EU

Microsoft has been warned by the EU that if Vista does not comply with EU demands about "bundling", then they could be banned from selling it in Europe.

They highlighted Vista's integrated Internet search, digital rights management used to protect copyright and software that would create fixed document formats comparable to Adobe's PDF. EU regulators have also warned Microsoft against putting certain software-security functions into Vista.

But, apparently the approach by the regulators has arisen because Microsoft has asked them to check that Vista complies with recent EU regulations against Windows. That's very proper of them! Mind you, Microsoft is going to be treading a very fine line with Vista. After all, one of it's core competitive advantages is that it is a more integrated OS.

The more integrated it is, the more competitors will scream about bundling. Search, DRM and security look set to be the hot button features for possible violations. looks like Microsoft may need the delay to the launch of Vista to iron out all these potential issues!

Google's share of search market shoots up!

Google gained an additional 6 percentage points of the US search market based on total queries, widening its lead last month against Yahoo and Microsoft 's MSN, according to data just released.

Google's share of the search market rose to 42.3% in February from 36.3% a year earlier, according to data from tracking firm ComScore.

Searches on Yahoo Internet sites represented 27.6% of the market, down from 31.1% a year earlier, while queries on MSN fell to 13.5% from 16.3%. And some pundits are predicting that Google's share could even go right up to 70% in the US.

The only other search engine that saw any growth in their market share was It proves the value of their latest innovations as well as search engine specialists versus broader portals.

Hey, Google's share could even near Microsoft's share of the PC O/S market with Windows?! Now that'd be a huge boost to Google. It'll help their ad revenues as well. Wall St will applaud it when they wake up tomorrow.

Worlds leading electronics companies back bluetooth to link home devices

Leading electronic companies worldwide have decided to back Bluetooth as the core wireless technology to connect electronic devices in the living room. That will include TV's, stereos, etc etc.

This is a major boost to Bluetooth that should now become a ubiquitous networking technology by 2010. And having one core standard will massivley boost the connectivity of devices in our houses. The connected home is on the horizon for the mass market.


Verizon and Google ink ad partnership

Verizon Communications has agreed to resell advertising on Google's search engine to small businesses that buy ads in its print and online directories.

Verizon has 3,000 advertising salespeople who work with small businesses that buy ads in its print yellowpages and online directory. Now they can offer them Google's Adwords services as well.

Google inked a similar deal with BellSouth last Autumn. Given that BellSouth are about to merge with AT&T Google will soon have stitched up both of the US' largest telco's in yellow pages deals.

This will help Google drive into small and medium sized business customers and considerable ramp up their distribution. Nice deal!

Net Neutrality heats up in Europe as well as US

Net neutrality is heating up in Europe now as well as the US. Two of Europe's leading operators, Deutsche Telekom and Telecom Italia are trying to work with the European Union to develop regulations to charge leading Internet companies such as Yahoo and Google for using their networks. They argue that they are and plan to invest Euro's 100bn's on hi-speed networks and need to recoup costs to ensure future network quality.

Dubbed “net neutrality” in North America, the issue has pitted telecoms companies against internet visionaries who claim that a new charging structure would undermine the principle of openness on which the internet was built, and prompt internet companies to charge consumers more for their services.

European operators are poised to invest about €80bn ($100bn) over the next 3-4 years in high-speed, or so-called next generation, networks. They argue that profitable internet companies such as Google should be charged higher fees to help pay for the networks. The operators also argue that these fees are necessary as video services spread. But internet companies say any extra levy – they already pay for the data they push out – would stop tomorrow’s Google's from even starting.

It's a tough call. As Internet companies provide higher bandwidth services and more and more Voice applications, you can understand why operators want to charge them. They are after all undermining their own business models.

BUT, Internet innovation must not be stifled and telco's make plenty of money. Now want to eat some of the Internet companies lunch. I guess they're just not used to the heavy duty competition they face today from start up telco's, cable companies as well as the Internet folk.

I'm not sure that regulation is ever any smart way to fight back. Better services and value is. On balance I'm one for not seeing the Internet companies get charged by the telco's. Let's see if the US and EU regulators agree - I hope so, for all us users who ultimately pay the bills.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Microsoft now to push launch of Office 2007 out to - 2007!!

OK, so now that Microsoft have had to delay the launch of Vista to next year (for technical reasons) - now they have decided that Office should follow suit (apparently for business reasons!? - so they can launch the two together - mmm...). That makes sense. Unless of course you are a PC maker or retailer. In which case this will be one fat disappointing Xmas.

Microsoft just keeps rocking the PC industry. And keeps handing it to Apple. How will Apple take advantage of this Microsoft stumble? It's up to them!

Google joins S&P500 - big corporate baby step

Google have just been welcomed to the corporate club of very large baby steps as they enter the S&P 500. And just to prove how valuable the club is Google's shares bounced up 8%.

Now a whole new category of professional investors and index trackers can join the illusive club of roller-coaster Google shareholders. Good luck to them. Of course in the short term the greatest beneficiaries are existing Google shareholders who will enjoy an upward ride over the next week/two (and maybe more) as Google charts up thanks to the S&P thing.

So Google grows up a little more and bumps through yet another corporate milestone at warp speed.

Lucent and Alcatel discuss a merger of equals

Lucent and Alcatel are discussing a merger of equals. They tried this 5 years ago and failed. They may well do so now as well, even though they probably both need it more than last time round. Carriers want fewer and fewer strategic suppliers and stiff competition from Ericsson, Nokia, plus a slew of Chinese and Asian players makes the move a necessary one.

But, one frought with risk. For merger's of equals are so hard to pull off - all those corporate ego's clash like Luke SkyWalker and Darth Vador. And this one would bring together the US and France (!!) in a huge trans-Atlantic alliance.

I would have thought that the risk may even be worth taking - given how the industry is shaping. And it would create the undisputed No1 player. I'm just glad I'm not one of the two companies shareholders!

Toshiba to delay HD-DVD launch

Toshiba has announced that they need to delay the launch of their new HD-DVD format thanks to a lacklustre response from retailers and movie makers. It seems that content owners are proving slow to convert their films to the new format.

And this could well prove to be the challenge for Toshiba who has won over technology leaders such as Microsoft and HP to their cause, but failed to garner the full support from Hollywood. It seems that Hollywood is more behind Sony's Blu-ray disc, which is delayed as well thanks to Sony's Playstation 3 launch.

Delays for tech products seems all the rage right now! But delaying this battle may be welcome for everyone. I mean who wants another format war - but we're gonna get it starting this summer - enjoy!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Microsoft restructures after Vista fiasco

Microsoft confirmed it is reorganizing its massive Windows unit, subdividing it into eight groups and tapping Steven Sinofsky, an Office veteran, to oversee future versions of its operating system.

Which is corporate mumbo jumbo press releaso for "shit, we're right up the panny with Windows and Vista and Longhorn is looking very, very long in the tooth/horn!"

There must be some major but-roasting going on internally. It's too laste to make much difference for this release - let's see what happens next time round.

Adobe's results disappoint and investors punish them - should they?

Design software maker Adobe Systems last night posted lower quarterly net income on acquisition-related costs and gave a disappointing outlook, sending its shares down 4%.

Net income was down around a third in their latest quarter from a year ago. And they put out silghtly lower projections going forwards, but stuck to their guidance for the full year.

That doesn't sound so bad? So what's all the fuss about and why did the stock take such a pummelling? Well, investors are still concerned about major software company M&A - as they should be - just check out Computer Associates.

And Adobe took one big bite when they acquired Macromedia. But strategically it makes complete sense - it'll all come down to execution now. The market needs to give them a little time. The key is how they do in 2007.

PayPal launches mobile payments - and it looks promising

Cnet's today announced that PayPal is to launch mobile payments. The service will go live in US and other key countries in the next couple of weeks.

And it looks good enough to finally get mobile payments going. For the last decade any number of start-ups, banks, software companies and telco's have tried to make mobile payments/mobile wallets work. They have all largely failed.

PayPal's offering looks set to change that. And the reason is simple. Over 100M people have PayPal accounts worldwide and are used to making online payments through them. They trust PayPal with their money.

The shift to using your phone rather than your PC to access your PayPal account (you will only have one whether you make PC or phone payments) is small and one that many of their users should be happy doing. You can make payments by texting or calling a central number.

So, once and for all we may have an alternative to cash - our mobile phones. So, check out PayPal - for this service we buy into and it may even help the other holy grail of the mobile world make some strides - mobile commerce!

Microsoft caves in to EU pressure

Microsoft seems to be finally caving in to EU presure with their anti-trust case. After much brow beating it seems that Microsoft has accepted that the EU is deadly serious about charging them Euro2M per day as fines if they do not comply.

Microsoft said it would offer rival companies “unlimited, free technical assistance” to help them develop products that work smoothly with the group’s ubiquitous Windows operating system. It would even send its software experts to other companies’ offices to help them in the process, Microsoft stated.

Let's see if Microsoft can follow through correctly on this one!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Dell contiues to move upmarket with the purchase of Alienware

Dell has just announced buying Alienware in another move intended to move the PC maker upmarket.

Ten-year-old Alienware has built a loyal following among computer users willing to pay $5,000 or more for powerful machines in odd colors such as "cyborg green. And have built a $225M revenue business on the back of it.

The hi-end computers will be positioned as hi-end media PC's as well, which is a fast growing sector with the growth of Microsoft's Media Center.

This looks like a smart move by Dell. And they need to move more upmaket as the PC sector matures and as Acer and Lenovo drive for the lowest-cost space.

AOL needs to make broadband work

AOL is struggling to survive as an ISP. The free portal continues to grow, but AOL's traditional dial-up business could be sliding into obscurity, unless new initiatives under way succeed.

AOL has teamed up with leading telco's to provide a nationwide own label braoband newtork and are now working aggresivley to try and convert the dial-up customers they have left (they lost 7M in the last few years!) to broadband prices.

And they are taking some risks as they have increased the price of their dial-up service so it costs the same as their broadband offering. They hope to convert 1M dial up users this year. And they'll need to keep up with Comcast and Verizon.

AOL’s broadband service, with about 5M customers in the US, has failed to establish itself as a premium internet service while AOL’s dial-up service in the US has lost 7M subscribers over three years. By comparison, AT&T had 6.9M broadband customers at the end of 2005, while Comcast, the US cable group, was the biggest broadband supplier with 8.5M customers.

2006 could prove pivotal for AOL - they need to move fast.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Microsoft just announced that they will have to delay the launch of Windows Vista

Microsoft has rocked the PC industry today with the shocking news that they will have to delay yet again the launch of Windows Vista until 2007. And they will miss the key Xmas selling period for consumers.

Vista for businesses will launch (supposedly) in December this year and the consumer version will be January 2007.

This is a big blow for Microsoft who was readying for a $500M marketing campaign. And yet again their software development processes look inadequate.

Shame, Microsoft was starting to build some momentum with their new product releases.

French government votes to force Apple to open up iTunes to other digital music players

The French government has voted to force Apple to open up iTunes to rival digital music players as we anticipated a few days ago.

This is a major blow to Apple. They have 40% of the French market, which is lower than in most countries they operate in. The legislation now goes to the upper house - but looks set to get passed.

Apple has not commented yet, but we are challenged to see how they can continue to operate in France. The precedent could be too dangerous for them in other countries. If they do back out - then what happens to all the French iTunes users? Have the French governement thought about that?!

Google and Nike launch soccer social networking site

Google seems to have discovered a new social networking model. They have combined with Nike to create a specialist social networking site focused on soccer., as it is anmed, is an attempt to steal some of Myspaces thunder by providing speacialist social networking sites in combination with a powerful content partner.

According to the site's blurb:

"Joga is an online community created by Google and Nike for anyone anywhere in the world who shares a love for football, the world's most popular sport. Joga is about getting to know your fellow fans; creating games and clubs; accessing athletes from Nike; and enjoying video clips and photos (you can even upload your own).

You can strengthen existing friendships and begin new ones, join a wide variety of professional athletes and football communities, and even create your own to discuss football, exchange tips on the coolest moves, browse through various pitches worldwide, and plan your next game."

Could this be the beginning of a whole new category for Google? Will they team up with Apple's iTunes for music and Martha for cookery! Let's see. Nice idea Google and Nike!

Google today launches financial news website

Google today launches Google Finance - aimed at competing with Yahoo Finance and MSN Money. And it's got some innovative features.

Google Finance offers similar features to its rivals – share quotes and charts, integrated financial news from its Google News service, discussion groups and the ability for investors to create personalised portfolios of their share holdings.

It also introduces innovations. The interactive charts will map market data with news stories, so the effect of announcements can be tracked against the stock performance. The charts can also be dragged dynamically using a scroll bar through different time periods.

And you don't have to remember a company's ticker symbol to search for it (thank the Lord!). Just type their name in and bingo! - you get info on them, latest news on them/announcements and frequency of news about a company, with bar charts showing news volumes over time. You even get bloggers views on the company!

So look forward to TechBoard and other channels from the businessuncut network featuring on Google Finance - fianlly!

Microsoft's Internet TV service takes off

Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s biggest telecommunications group, has picked Microsoft’s software to power its next generation IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) service due to launch initially in 10 German cities beginning in mid-year.

They will be offering it through their ISP T-Online over their hi-speed Internet service.

Microsoft is gaining increasing traction from their IPTV software service and now boast deal/trials with many of the worlds leading telco's including AT&T, Telecom Italia, BT and about 10 others.

And some of their contracts are huge. AT&T's is reputed to be worth $400M. Microsoft's IPTV solution is finally taking off, after many years of little success.

The wide availability of hi-speed data networks to the home has proven to be the trigger for Microsoft's newfound success in the all vital Internet TV sector. They could even become a leader now. That's the prize for them pioneering and then not giving up.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Oracle's results just out - they look impressive

Oracle has just announced their latest quarterly results and it finally looks like their business apps unit is performing. All those acquisitions may even deliver!

Overall revenue rose 18% to $3.47 billion. Much of the growth came from Oracle's business software segment, which has been bolstered by the acquisitions of PeopleSoft, Siebel and Retek.

Sales of new software licenses in the quarter totaled $1.1 billion, a 16% increase from last year. Oracle said new license sales in its business software segment jumped 77%, while license sales for its larger database business rose 5% from a year earlier.

So, with database revenues having matured, they need the higher growth from the applications business. They need to grow their infrastructure side through internal innovations such as their secure corporate search.

Larry Ellison my just have got it right again. Lets hope they deliver on Fusion - then their stock price may even start moving as well! SAP may finally have some real competition.

France takes on iTunes - let the battle begin!

The latest salvo in the Franco-US political battle commences tomorrow as the French Parliament looks set to pass a law which would make Apple's iTunes monopoly illegal! The resolution is designed to make online music stores compatible with any digital music player. The French version of iTunes would have to be compatible with ALL music players.

Currently, software in digital downloads from iTunes prevents music being played by any rival to the popular iPod, but the French bill seeks to impose “interoperability” on online music stores and break Apple’s closed system.

Interesting that the bill only negatively affects Apple, a US company. This bill is not only a kick in the pants to any technology inventor in the world, but is also a kick in the pants to free trade. Does this mean that the French will pass similar laws for games consoles, mobile phones etc etc. Of course not, so why single out the digital music market??!!

Most interesting of all will be Apple's response. They may close off their service in the French market if they feel that it could create a dangerous precedent in other countries.

This in turn could create a huge backlash from French iPod users and perhaps even create yet another French revolution. Instead of burning cars - they'll be torching their music players instead. Maybe they should just torch their politicians.

The Internet classifieds battle hots up with Microsoft's Live Expo

First Google launched Google Base, which was intended to provide a platform for people to be able to buy and sell all manor of things via a digital classifieds service that will also become an e-commerce platform for brick and mortar companies.

Now Microsoft has launched Windows Live Expo - which is more directly designed to take on Craig's List.

Whereas Google's approach is all about e-commerce and listings - Microsoft's is about social networking and classifieds. And they have woven blogging and messaging into Expo. They clearly believe that we are likely to be interested in seeing what our friends and neighbours have on offer, perhaps more than just any stranger.

It looks to me like Google Base, Microsoft's Live Expo and Craig's List are all going after exactly the same turf. And their real collisison course will be with Ebay and Amazon on one side and newspaper classifieds on the other.

But, ultimately more and more classifieds wil move to the Internet - Google and Microsoft will both prove winners - and the biggest losers will be local newspapers.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Amazon dives into financial services retailing

For the first time, will offer a financial services "store" on its Web site. The company behind that store is Fidelity Investments, the Boston-based mutual fund giant.

Could this be the beginning of a more concerted move by Amazon into financial services re-selling - it should be!

Lenovo begins their restructuring

The new CEO at Lenovo is moving fast to restructure. Today Lenovo announced reducing their work force by 5%. This should save them around $250M and allow them to compete better globally with Dell, HP and Acer.

All are in a bloody battle for market share and cutthroat prices look set to stay. Lenovo will be forced to be the real low cost player outside Asia - going primarly after smaller businesses and consumers. So keeping costs to a minimum is vital.

Expect the world PC market to increasingly become dominated by the big 4 - Dell, HP, Lenovo and Acer. 2nd tier players will have to figure out discrete niches (as Apple always has) or die. Gateway had better move fast.

Oh and lastly Lenovo are moving their US headquarters from New York to North Carolina. That's nice - the weather's warmer there and lovely beaches nearby.

Vodafone sells Japanese unit to Softbank

Vodafone has begun what we predict will be a major restructuring of their assets and direction. For today they announced selling their troubled Japanese subsidiary to Softbank and exited one of the worlds largest and most strategically important market.

Shareholders have been pushing Vodafone to fix their struggling Japanese unit or dump it. Today they dumped it. And with it comes the first of many moves designed to placate shareholders and push up their long struggling share price. They have announced they will return around $10bn to shareholders through a special dividend. That should shut them up for a while.

Next up Vodafone will sell their stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon for over $50bn (expect that to happen this year). Vodafone will return more money to shareholders and buy back moire shares to boost their price.

Then Vodafone will have to figure out where to go from there. They will be out of the Japanese and US market and will no longer look like the global mobile leader that they were.

Expect them to try and dive deeper into data services (boy they need to do a lot of work) in their maturerer European markets. And expect them to drive growth via investments in developing countries. India and China should feature strongly.

On the bright side Vodafone has a unique opportunity to re-shape their portfolio of assets - on the downside they look distinctly less global and less of an industry leader. That they will need to fix fast if they do not want to begin a long decline to irrelevance.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Microsoft announces VOIP and video launches

Microsoft today unveiled details of plans for VoIP and video products offered through Windows Live services that will include new VoIP phones and a click-to-call feature for address book names.

Through Live Mail and Live Search you will be able to right click to create a VOIP call or video call to contacts (from the address book) or advertisers etc. through Live Search.

And Microsoft also plan to launch new VoIP phones designed to make PC-to-PC calls and one-way PC-to-phone calls via Windows Live Messenger (if that doesn't confuse you nothing will). The phones also will be designed to work on a traditional telecomms network.

And given how much VOIP is taking off in the US, Microsoft is doing exaclty as they should. Interesting that they do not as yet register as a major VOIP provider (their market share is too small) whereas Google does.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Google to take on with Google Base

Google looks set to use Google Base to compete with Research has apparently shown them that many brick and mortar retailers are not happy with the performance of their online operations and could benefit from a service such as Google Base to outsource their e-commerce operations.

This makes huge sense strategically for Google and could go well beyond retailing. It could also include real estate etc. And the model is already proven as Amazon successfully offers such services to companies such as Target and Borders.

Google could compete effectively with Amazon thanks to both their neutrality versus retailers (after all Amazon competes with them) and thanks to their huge user base and technical skills.

Challeneges to Google succeeding include how extensive aservice they can offer the retailer - for instance they would surely not want to get involved in logistics. Google Base still has much to work out from an operational perspective - but this is a good step forwards.

And who said Google has no ability to diversify their revenue base.

Sony to delay launch of Playstation 3 until November

Any of you out there looking forward to playing with your brand new and state of the art Playstation 3 this summer are in for a nasty surprise. Sony have decided that for technical reasons they will have to postpone launching their blockbuster new games console until November.

They will thus hand Microsoft a full year lead with the Xbox 360. That may even be enough to give the Redmond folk time to build a following strong enough to make them the firm No2 in the games console market.

But somehow I doubt it. The Playstation has such a huge following and the Playstation 3 is so talked about and so technically impressive that I can't help but conclude that the market may wait. But then again, handing Microsoft this kind of marketing lead is like handing a kid a granade - very, very dangerous.

AOL to launch free online video service backed up by ads

AOL is today launching one of the biggest free video services on the Internet, serving up vintage shows and short clips backed by online advertisements.

The service, called In2TV, will launch with four advertisers -Intel, Kia Motors, Kraft Foods and Hershey.

Video is AOL's strategy going forwards. They will add pay-per-view downloads later this year and a subscription model next year.

But most significant may prove to be their ad based model. And if they can crack it better than others then online viewers may even flock back to AOL. They are spot on to make video the centre of their strategy - have they also figured out that for the volumes you need a successful ad based model? - probably for movies as well.

Movie theatre owners in US to try to jam mobile phones useage

Movie theater owners in the US faced with falling attendance are considering asking federal authorities for permission to jam cell phone reception in an attempt to stop annoying conversations during films, according to the head of the industry's trade group.

I guess those Orange adds aren't doing the job there supposed to. Mind you they're damned funny. Anyway, back to the point, jamming is currently illegal and getting the government to lift the ban on jammers would be a major challenge - perhaps larger than getting people to stop using their phones in the first place.

But not more of a challenge than getting people back in to cinema's in any real numbers. As cinema attendance continues to decline (have you seen the latest wide screen TV's? - they're practically drive-in material) the industry is looking increasingly desperate.

Why not re-invent the cinema to become more of a multi-cutlural destination with arts, restaurants etc surrounding them rather than just the movie and stale popcorn experience we get today.

And what kind of precedent would the cinema industry create of it were to jam mobile users. Next up restaurants, pubs, bars, theatres, parks, football stadiums. In fact anywhere other than my living room. Which takes you full circle back to no longer needing a mobile phone and using fixed line instead. Hey, now there's a strategy for fixed line operators!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

US judge challenges government attorneys over request for Google data

A US federal judge has challenged government attorneys over whether a Justice Department subpoena for Google's search data would be a burden on the Internet search leader.

Google's attorney said the government was overreaching, but added that the government request had been scaled back. It may well be that the case will be settled by Google accepting a much scaled back request for data by the US government.

And the US government has indicated that their study could go ahead without the Google data - though of course they would prefer it.

Google's shares bounced up on the news proving just how much everyone values Google's reputation building as a trusted third party keeper of your most private and valuable personal data.

Storing and oprganizing consumer data is Google's future so handling this case well is critical for them. Today bodes well, but there's a way to go yet.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Google offering US and UK publishers service to sell their books online

Google is inviting US and UK publishers to sell online access to their copyright texts through its book search site.

Right now, Google Book Search users can view free snippets of copyright books catalogued by its service but cannot read entire books online. Links take them to booksellers on the web.

The new offering would allow people to sign in and purchase immediate, browser-based access to books. Purchasers would not, however, be allowed to save a copy of the book to their computer or to otherwise copy pages from the book.

Google Books is on the way. And if Google can wind their way successfully through the maze of copyright issues and cases that they face with their Google books project, they may have a future winner on their hands. It may even give them a holy grail of diversified revenues - away from ad revenues alone.

French set to open iTunes to any player

France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker's popular iPod player.

If/when it goes through Apple may well close it's iTunes store in France. Which would be a great way to ensure no-one can get iTunes tunes at all! Nice one France.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Cingular and T-Mobile pull the Motorola Razr in US

The hugely popular Motorola Razr has been pulled from stores in the US by both Cingular and T-Mobile as well as from their web sites.

Apparently Motorola have problems with a component that only affects GSM US networks. Verizon and SprintNextel are not affected.

This is a huge challenge for Motorola as their No1 selling handset represented 25% of their total handset sales in the last quarter of 2005!! Mind you, that will at least ensure they fix the problem at record speed!

Google acquires online word processor

The battle for office and consumer software has been officially opened up again. For Google today announced buying writely. And only a few days after they leaked plans for an online calendar.

We for a while have been talking about the importance of free online software services for consumers and small businesses. The likes of writely are reshaping the way we might one day all use basic software applications such as word processing, calendars and spreadsheets.

The software is free, accessed over the Internet and shareable. And no need for servers or networking cable!

And with Microsoft making strides with Windows and Office Live it is was just a matter of time before Google responded. Buying writely is the right first step. Now they need to think about buying the likes of gOFFICE and launching an entire suite to take on Microsoft Office 2007.

By the end of this year consumers and small businesses will have the real option of setting up all their key systems for free and without servers. Now that sounds good.

Amazon going to offer movie downloads and online rental

It looks like Amazon is going to offer video downloads as well as online rentals to augment their digital content plays soon to be launched including digital music and books.

Apparently the online retailer is talking with movie studios including General Electric's Universal Pictures, Viacom's Paramount and Time Warner's Warner Bros. about making their content available on its site, both for Internet rental and purchase. A service could begin this summer.

And the music studios as well as music labels are likely to be highly supportive of Amazon's approach as they are fearful of the dominant position that Apple's iTunes has over the market and over their relationship.

And Amazon looks set to offer user ratings and Amazon search to try and add value. Plus apparently movie studios are looking at simultaneous release of online movies and DVD's.

Amazon may be attracting Wall Streets attention by jacking up their costs - but so far the expenditure looks spot on. Digitally accessed content is absolutely the future.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Samsung attacks the European cellphone market

Samsung is poised to attack the European market and become the clear number 2 player in the region. In 2005 Samsung nudged ahead of Motorola to become the number 2 player in Europe. And this year they want to become the clear number 2.

And they have updated winning phones and are launching some powerful new devices that are aimed to take on digital cameras on one hand and the iPod on the other as they unveiled two expensive new handsets, one with a high resolution 10 megapixel digital camera with optical zoom and another with a hard drive that can store thousands of songs on an 8 gigabyte hard disk. Now that's power.

That should blow the socks off many devices. And to follow up they're also launching variants of their credit card phone for the mass market that is literally the size of a credit card and one centimetre thin!

Mind you they need all the fire power they can get to beat the Motorola Razr which was Europe's number one seller last year. And it seems Motorola only need launch it in a new colour to continues to stimulate sales.

Motorola is becoming the fashion player and Samsung the power player. Motorola the Apple of the mobile handset space and Samsung the SUN. I guess that just leaves Nokia as the Dell. My money's on Samsung and Motorola growing their market share if they can drive to their strengths.

Microsoft unveils utlra-mobile PC - is it a whole new category?

Microsoft today unveiled the ultra-mobile PC and announced that they have invented a whole new consumer electronics category. Yep, consumer, cos this one is apparently for all of us - not for business users as one might imagine?!

The 7 inch screen ultra-mobile will go on sale at between $600 and $1,000 and will initally have a battery life of only 3 hours. The two together are almost bound to ensure that initial versions of the device see small volumes.

The device will initially be manufactured by Samsung Electronics, Taiwan's Asustek Computer and China's second largest PC-maker, the Founder Group. No major US manufacturers have signed up yet. Which seems wise.

Samsung positions the UMPC as a handheld organizer, an MP3 portable music player, a mobile television receiver, a games device and a notebook PC and believes it will be more successful than the full-sized tablet notebook PC with touch screen, launched four years ago. Which would not be hard.

It looks more like a PDA than anything else. It could also be an interesting blogging device. The problem may be that it is trying to be all things to all people. It could even be your PDA - unfortunately that category never took off. About the only thing that it does not seem to do is make telephone calls.

Mobile network connectivity is through Wi-Fi. There is no 3G connectivity.

Microsoft tout the ultra-mobile PC as a new category definer but decline to comment on which category. Is it PDA or dames device or music player or mini-PC or just a mish mas of all the above all in the name of creating the first truly converged device.

Convergence I buy into big time. Just check out But mish mashes I struggle with more. And an expensive mish mash I struggle with entirely.

So Microsoft and their partners look like they need to do a whole load more work in positioning this product around exciting new consumer behaviors rather than just technology device. Origami excites me. I just have no clue what it means yet. And ultra-mobile PC means nothing to anyone. Try explaining that to your granny.

Maybe there is a new category here but right now it looks like it will take a lot longer to create one. No need to give up on your iPod yet or your lightweight notebook quite yet. I'm not even sure you need to let go of that Filofax. Shame.

Google shells out $90M in click-fraud lawsuit

Google has agreed to pay up to $90 million to settle a class action lawsuit over advertising fraud by outside parties on its site, in a bid to put the controversy behind it.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by Lane's Gifts earlier this year in an Arkansas state court and looks to have settled all outstanding claims against Google for fraud committed using its pay-per-click ad system back to 2002.

If this is the case (and it may not be so entirely) and if Google really has gone a long way to putting click-fraud behind them - then this is an important step for them. I just wonder whether further technical and legal bells and whistles are necessary to really deal stamp out such fraud. We'll see.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Google to launch calendar application

Google looks set to launch a calendar application later this year that could rival Microsoft's Windows Live version. Screenshots were leaked to a blogsite and the press has picked up.

The features look pretty rich including integration with other calendars, public viewing, integration with Gmail and text message updating.

Could this be the first step toward an office suite from Google? I hope so for their sake. If not - Microsoft's Office and Windows Live could actually move ahead in the race for consumer online software suites.

Google does another disclosure oopsy - but the news isn't all bad!

Google, admitted that they made a slip-up during presentations at its analysts’ day last week, when notes included with slides mentioned a forecast of $9.5bn in advertising revenues this year.

They issued a securities filing saying that it was a real oopsy because the sales forecast was actually created for a product presentation at the end of last year.

Google's stock fell and the press is making noises about Google's accidental disclosures damaging their reputation or at least posing some awkward questions about their (communications) management.

The bit that everyone seems to be neglecting is that analaysts are currently expecting Googles revenues to come in somewhere between $8-11bn. So $9.5bn is not nothing to poop at.

And the $9.5bn forecast is just for ad revenues. What happens if revenues from Google Video or Google Software or any other number of their reveneue diversification offerings kick in.

And everyone is aware that online advertising growth has to slow to a more sensible rate at one point. So it may as well be now. $9.5bn would represent 58% growth on last year. OK, so it's not the 92% achieved in 2005, but it's still a level of growth that every other company on the planet would die for.

I think what all this adds up to is that Google still can't sneeze without the world crawling all over them. That just proves how central they are to everyone's lives. But they do need to get their communications in check and the fact that they're hiring an investor relations person is a decent start.

Google has grown so fast that they are actually still in start up phase, but they have the revenues, market presence and profile of a large corporate. Their biggest challenge of all may prove to be their ability to behave like a corporate (management, processes, systems etc etc) while growing like a start-up.

Microsoft did it. So can Google. And their stock price will bounce back up. Just wait for their next cool announcement. At least all of this has ended up lowering overly lofty expectations placed artificially on the search leader by the markets.

Microsoft launches Windows Live beta today with search

Microsoft today launches Windows Live Beta and adds their new flagship search capability to take on search leaders Google and Yahoo. And it has numerous interesting features. I'm not entirely convinced about the results yet - but check it out.

Windows live will fast become Microsoft's answer to software services over the Internet. Users will be able to freely access search, email, messaging, news and much more from one web enabled panel at

It is still very much in Beta. But if Microsoft get their act together (and they seem to be moving fast with Windows Live), it could become the leading software and services portal on the web.

Expect Google to respond with more of their own software services. They need to. Microsoft wants this space.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Intel reveals more details on Microsofts Origami mini PC

At their developer forum, Intel, as well as marking out their new product releases for later this year, also revealed more details about their joint project with Microsoft to launch a mini-tablet PC called Origami.

Microsoft will be unveiling the product formally on Thursday, but Intel have shown a 7 inch screen PC tablet with a three hour battery life and Wi-Fi/GPS built in. It will run Windows XP and will likely cost around $750. Oops!

Well the price tag should sink that one. Maybe in a couple of years it will get priced at under $500 and have a longer battery life. Then it might be worth a look at - until then Nokia's tablet looks a better bet.

Google lets slip how they plan to take on Microsoft

Google just let slip how they plan to take on Microsoft. They accidentally posted some notes on their web site, intended for analysts, stating that they plan to challenge Microsoft by offering users infinite storage.

They see the future as the network (as Sun have for quite a while). And they want to be able to offer users the ability to store all their data with Google.

Email, notes, texts, documents etc etc. They want to create the universal and TOTAL on-demand data service over the Internet. They would in effect replace all our hard drives with Google servers.

If you can get over privacy concerns, then users would be able to access their data any time and any place (so long as it has an Internet connection).

This would naturally allow Google (if we buy into this) to understand us and our interests and behaviors much better, so they could in turn offer us more and more targetted ads and services. Sounds good for Google.

Could be good for users too. It would reduce the cost of hardware (we wouldn't need anything like as much storage and procressing capabilities), software and tech services.

And as long as networks get faster and faster, we would all worry less about network latency/speeds. Mmm, could work. I could access my data from PC's, TV's, games consoles, mobile phones etc. Anywhere in the world.

The Google GDrive strategy , as it is apparently named, looks spot on to me. No wonder they spend such a huge amount on servers and data centers. Now get on with it guys. GDrive would challenge Microsoft and take web services to the next level. It would also force Microsoft to adapt to the networked model ever faster, which would be good for all of us.

Mind you, I still like the look of Microsofts about to be launched Office. Maybe a hybrid is the solution??

Cingular to roll out mobile TV

Cingular is about to roll out mobile TV across their 3G network currently in 16 cities.

Costing subscribers $20 a month the service will show clips from the likes of the high-octane Cartoon Network, Fox News, and General Electric owned NBC.

For an extra $5 a month you'll also be able to watch three to five minute clips of mobster jamboree The Sopranos along with other content from HBO.

So, for $25 per month you get a mish mash of TV from a rather limited number of networks. Given that this could almost get you a basic satellite service and not quite a cable package it feels a bit toppy.

As in Europe, that rolled mobile TV last year, until it becomes more cost effective expect minimal take-up. Wait another year or two and smart operators will figure out that you need to offer more for less. Then mobile TV stands a chance. Until then these announcements are really just interesting user tests.

SprintNextel looks solid going forwards

While all the US telco headlines over the last few months have been grabbed by AT&T and Verizon as they complete their acquisitions and blow out new on-demand newtorks and mobile TV, SprintNextel has been quietly delivering.

And today they announced that their 3 year outlook will be rosy. Double digit growth will be the order of the day and their wireless bet seems safe.

I just get the nagging feeling that they might need to do more to keep up with AT&T and Verizon. How about merging with Vodafone and really bulking up on wireless? Just a thought.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Apple hits the living room and it might just change our lives

Sneaky old Apple does it again. Their launch of the Mac Mini and iPod Hi-Fi last week is the start of their grab-the-living-room strategy. And it could just work.

The Mac Mini is a low cost entry to digital living room technology with a remote control included (as well as loads of multimedia stuff). And the iPod Hi-Fi is the extension.

So, while the Mac Mini attacks the TV(/multimedia) and digital storage, the iPod Hi-Fi attacks in-house music. Link them all together and make them dangerously easy to use and Apple may just be onto something.

Assuming it's 'plug and play' easy to use. Have you tried firing up Microsoft's Media Center? Yep, you get it.

They certainly have me looking for my local Apple store.

Google goes mobile

Google had a busy week last week.

Other than tanking their stock, Google have gone public with their mobile strategy. They have clearly decided that a great new way to drive revenues and earnings in the future is to go mobile. Der, yeah.

But look a little closer and you realise that they aren'y just talking mobile (as everyone else is), but they are also investing heavily and making strides.

Most interesting of all is a deal with SonyEricsson to launch mobile phones together that are hot-wired for Google services such as search, blogging and news. Nice one! At the same time Google have announced a few deals, including with Vodafone, to embed Google search into their walled garden services (for Vodafone it's Vodafone Live).

They need to move like lightning to secure more partnerships with leading operators before they launch their own mobile search services. Some operators will want to shut Google out of their subscriber base.

But Google plan to add some real value. They will filter sites for their ability to be presented on small mobile screens, and lots could be free as they will try and generate revenues through mobile ads. About time too!

But, charging meachanisms will depend on which market they are serving. Lets hope Google don't fall into the ugly pit that mobile operators are worldwide by charging users for too many of their data services. Keep it low cost for the consumer or mobile data services will always be small fry.

RIM finally settle with NTP and the Blackberry stays alive

RIM, the owners of the Blackberry, have finally settled with NTP and Blackberry users across the US can sigh a huge sigh of relief as their Blackberries won't get switched off after all.

RIM have had to shell out over $600M to settle and own a perpetual licence for the NTP technology - but can focus back on the business rather than managing media and investor uproar at the thought of the possible Blackberry shutdown.

And RIM have a great deal to do to keep Microsoft, Nokia and others at bay in the fast growing mobile email market. With the NTP issue behind them they need to move at grease lightning speeds or face a far greater challenge to their future.

Ultimately, you just can't help agreeing with the judge and wondering why it took RIM so long to settle. It calls in to question RIM's management and reputation. Now they need to rebuild it.

AT&T buy Bellsouth for $67bn

AT&T is back! The once industry leader that under CEO Armstrong spent much of the 1990's trying to own the telco universe only to fall flat on its face at the turn of this century, is now dominating again. It may have new owners and managers - but AT&T is back with avengeance.

For having barely recovered from being bought by SBC Communications, the new AT&T has just decided to buy Bellsouth.

So will they fall on their face again? I doubt it this time. The industry is ripe for consolidation and the regulators are more open. AT&T is now building a telco and media giant that Armstrong dreamed of but could never deliver.

And AT&T need to bulk up to take on other telco's and more importantly cable and Internet challengers. Plus they get to own Cingular, the US number 1 wireless operator, 100%. Given the growth Cingular is enjoying that makes sense.

So the new AT&T has operations across the US from California to Florida and over 100M customers, plus a strong corporate telco arm. They have the US leading mobile operator and they are spreading their hi-speed Internet and TV networks across the US. AND they get to leave Verizon in their wake. For Verizon will be worth less than half the post merger AT&T/Bellsouth.

Verizon will have to respond and at least buy Vodafone out of Verizon Wireless so they own it 100%. And rumours are running around that Verizon might snap up Quest. This makes less sense to me. Quest has far too much debt. Perhaps they should go another route and buy a media outfit or an Internet company. Now that would be truly revolutionery? Armstrong would surely applaud.

Upstarts challenge the PC market

It looks like the upstarts are challenging the PC leaders and making progress. For while Dell and Intel lose market share Lenovo and AMD expand. And expect more to come as Lenovo attack the US market with their own branded more affordable PC's/laptops, yet with the Thinkpad quality and tools.

And at the same time AMD just keep chipping away at Intel. Both have mastered how to not just copy the market leaders but now are beating them at their own game.

Expect Lenovo to reinvent the low cost PC market with affordability and quality plus solid service (after all much production will come from China - and we know all about their cost advantages!). And expect AMD to move from under Intel's shadow and no longer be an Intel me-too, but an innovator and leader in their own right.

AMD can and may well become a Pepsi to the Intel Coke. And look at how successfully Pepsi have challenged Coke over the last decade or so. So, we can expect the Lenovo/AMD upstarts to do the same for the PC market. And it needs a shake up.

So who will take on Microsoft? That's easy: Google and Apple silly!

NBC Universal to buy iVillage

The Wall Street Journal has just scooped the news that NBC Universal is buying the women's content site iVillage for $600M, proving at least that the future for any media company that knows which side is up is to dive into the Internet.

For iVillage it's the natural conclusion to a bumpy ride over the last few years. I remember having lunch with the founder of iVillage back in their glory days. They were worth north of $1bn and claiming that they would one day rule the world. Well, they didn't. But then who did? (oh, other than Google obviously)...

So, they hunkered down and focussed on being the premier US women's site and they have done a pretty good job of that. So the prize of $600M and a home at NBC Universal is a decent one. Expect more of the same once the GE boys and girls are in charge.