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2011-05-07 12:25
Did you hear that both Google and Facebook are looking to either partner with Skype or simply buy it? Funny, because back in the day when Skype was in play (before it was acquired by eBay), Google had a chance to buy it, but Larry Page and Sergey Brin nixed the idea.

People laughed at me when I suggested back on September 29, 2010 that Facebook should buy Skype. Here’s what I wrote then, and I still think that is the real reason for a Skype-Facebook deal:

Sure, this would be a big, hairy merger, but look at it this way: In one swoop, Facebook would dominate what I’ve maintained is both the new age and classic social networking. They have people’s credit cards; they have their real-world phone information; and in the end, they have a better, more useful, social graph than Facebook itself.

The Skype-Facebook client on the desktop would mean both Facebook and Skype will be jointly in people’s faces, and take time away from other web services, such as Google. A simple search box inside the Skype client, and the two companies are starting to take attention away from arch-nemesis, Google.

Since then, Skype is much bigger, has more revenues and has a lousy new desktop client. Facebook has taken huge strides towards owning “communications” and online “interactions.” When Facebook launched its Social Inbox, I pointed out:

For the first three years of its life, the company was merely a social network, but then it transformed itself in quick succession into a social web platform and then a social aggregator of the web. Today, the company launched its “social inbox,” a new kind of messaging system that is the first public manifestation of the new new Facebook. Facebook’s newest core competency is communications — a way to become even more indispensable in our daily web lives.

There are many other reasons why this deal makes sense, the biggest being Marc Andreessen, the web wunderkind turned über-VC who sits on the board of Facebook and has investments in both companies. It would be Christmas in summer for his fund if this deal goes through.

Tags: facebook, Google
2011-05-07 11:11
Category: Business, Technology
While in the past we’ve seen Microsoft work closely with Fiat in the auto industry to develop the Blue&Me electronic interface, the software giant is now partnering with Volkswagen to help develop the next-generation of in-car entertainment technology, and possibly do-away with in-car DVD players in the process.

Microsoft has announced that it’s signed a patent licensing agreement with Volkswagen’s software supplier, giving the automaker access to its Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) technology.

The file storage technology delivers a significant leap forward in the size of media files that can be stored on a broad range of consumer electronic devices and increases the speed with which they can be accessed.

This means vehicle owners could soon be able to quickly transfer a movie from any portable device and watch it through their car’s display screen. In fact, Volkswagen is currently working on a new multimedia platform that will provide a longer menu of infotainment options for vehicle owners.

Unfortunately, this all sounds like just another step towards turning cars into just another appliance. We hope any new technology Volkswagen and Microsoft are planning won’t lead to further distraction for drivers.

2011-04-01 18:14
Intel has announced it is to roll out a new technology for connecting computers and peripherals.

The system, known as Thunderbolt, promises transfer speeds twice as fast as USB 3.0.

However it won't reach its theoretical maximum because Intel has opted to use copper wires rather than fibre optic cables.

The company said it would gradually move to higher speeds over time.

Apple will become the first manufacturer to use Thunderbolt, on its Macbook Pro computers.

The Cupertino firm is said to have been a major driver of its development, although it remains to be seen how may other manufacturers will adopt the new standard.

Light Peak
Intel has been working on the technology for several years.

It was first announced, under the codename Light Peak in 2009.

At launch, its top speed will be limited to 10 Gigabits per second - twice as fast as USB 3.0, but still well below the theoretical maximum using optical cables.

Light Peak
Intel has been working on the technology for several years.

It was first announced, under the codename Light Peak in 2009.

At launch, its top speed will be limited to 10 Gigabits per second - twice as fast as USB 3.0, but still well below the theoretical maximum using optical cables.

Intel claims that future versions will be able to reach 100 Gb/sec.

The faster data transfer rates are likely to be welcomed by those consumers who use high-definition video, said Sarah Rottman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"This isn't an innovation that consumers have been asking for, but it's one they'll appreciate," she said.

"Especially when transferring video, as that's when [USB] starts to feel slow."

The system also promises to reduce the number of cables a user has connecting their computer setup.

It is able to carry multiple signal types at the same time, enabling power, display and peripherals to use a single cable.

However, in the short term, users may need to invest in special adaptors to connect their older devices onto Thunderbolt sockets.

Its arrival on the consumer market also raises questions about the future of other connector standards, such as USB and Firewire.

Thunderbolt's most high profile supporter, Apple, is expected to gradually transition to a single connector, according to Karen Haslam, editor of Macworld UK.

"In the long run there will be no need for Apple to support these multiple formats with individual ports - existing products can run through an adaptor," she said.

Not everyone is convinced that Thunderbolt will become the lone standard.

Ian Chiu, editor of the website told BBC News that the cost of components could put off some manufacturers.

"I don't really know how Intel will make Thunderbolt appealing to all the other first-tier PC manufacturers," he said.

"HP, Sony, Dell, Acer, Asus make most of their money from the low-end and medium-end notebooks.

"On the other hand, Apple's Macbook Pro line-up is targeted at the prosumers, professionals and other people who aren't so price conscious," said Mr Chiu.

2011-04-01 16:34
Some iPhone owners were heading in to work late on Monday after a glitch caused their alarms to malfunction.

Users found their wake-up alert coming one hour late, one hour early or not at all.

The problem, related to the clocks going forward for British Summer Time, does not appear to have affected everyone.

Apple has yet to comment on what caused it, but similar problems have previously hit iPhones in the US.

Many of those whose alarms went wrong turned to social networking sites to vent their fury. One Twitter user wrote: "iPhone alarm failed twice. 1) went off at 5.45 instead of 6.45. 2) Didn't go off at all when I reset it. Time to update software."

Another unimpressed owner wrote: "Thanks iPhone. I didn't really want that alarm to go off anyway."

According to user reports, the glitch has affected non-recurring alarms set within the iPhone's calendar application, rather than its dedicated alarm clock.

The problem first came to light in the United States last November during the switch from Daylight Savings Time.

Despite promises from Apple to correct it, a similar issue hit iPhones on 1 January 2011.

2011-04-01 16:19
Amazon has unveiled an online music service that lets users upload songs and play them from a range of devices.

The internet retailer launched its Cloud Player in the US, ahead of rivals Apple and Google which are rumoured to be developing similar systems.

Users are given 5Gb of storage space, roughly equivalent to 1,200 tracks, but can opt to pay for additional capacity.

The Cloud Player is currently only available through web browsers and mobile devices running Google Android.

Commenting on the launch, Amazon's vice president of movies and music, Bill Carr said: "Our customers have told us they don't want to download music to their work computers or phones because they find it hard to move music around to different devices."

Rival systems
Although a number of smaller cloud music services already exist, such as mSpot and AudioBox, Amazon is the first of the big technology companies to venture into this area.

Speculation has been rife that Apple would launch a cloud based version of iTunes since it purchased the online music service Lala in December 2009.

It is widely expected that Apple's offering will form part of a broader re-launch of the MobileMe platform.

Google, which already offers cloud services in the form of Gmail and Google Documents, is also believed to be testing a music storage system, or "locker".

Format shifting
It is not known what agreement, if any, Amazon has reached with the four major record companies, regarding users uploading copies of their music.

Making online copies of tracks is known as format shifting. While the practice may violate copyright, in the US, it is generally defensible under the principle of fair usage.

The same rules do not apply in the UK - meaning, for example, it is technically a breach of copyright law to copy music from a CD onto an MP3 player.

However the music industry has generally turned a blind eye to users copying legally purchased music, not least because of the difficulty in policing infringement.

If Amazon Cloud is to launch in the UK, the company may have to address those issues, say lawyers.

"I am guessing that what they are doing in the US is using the fair usage laws that cover format shifting," said Brett Farrell, a technology and media lawyer at Barlow Robbins.

"Technically you do not have the right to format shift in the UK.

"If a major player moved into town and wanted to encourage format shifting then I think the record companies would use that as a way of getting them to the negotiating table," he said.

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