Carl Icahn's move to grab seats on Yahoo's board may eventually make that company more open to a merger, but the question is whether Microsoft is even still interested.
The company's words say no , but its search share says yes.
Microsoft has been trying to grow its search market share organically for a couple of years now and the numbers suggest it has spent a lot of money without making any headway against Google or even Yahoo.
Officially, the company declines to comment on Icahn's move, while continuing to send out the signal that it has moved on. OK, but it's not like the company has really taken any irreversible actions since dropping its bid earlier this month.
While Microsoft may well have talked to Facebook and AOL, its billions remain in the bank.
There is one factor I think complicates the matter, and I am not sure how much Icahn or anyone else can change this. Microsoft would be buying Yahoo for two main things: its people and its market share, particularly in search.
Both those assets could be fleeting unless Microsoft can smoothly integrate Yahoo. And here is where I think most of Microsoft's willingness to move on stems from. I think Steve Ballmer became convinced that Yahoo was going to make the integration tough, if not impossible.
For Icahn to really succeed, he will have to not only win over shareholders, but also get Yahoo's upper echelons to really support the deal. And that may be tougher than a proxy battle.
Robert Scoble, with the tools of his trade: a camera duct-taped to hat and a laptop with Verizon wireless card.
Several prominent personalities in the Web 2.0 media space have taken more than a passing interest in Justin.TV . Geek bloggers Chris Pirillo and Robert Scoble , as well as Jeremiah Owyang of the Web Strategies blog have set up their own livecasts using the streaming service UStream .
Their streams are not what I would call must-see. The other day I watched Scoble drive from his home in Half Moon Bay to his wife's relative's house in Merced. It was a technical trick that he could broadcast live video from his car, but most of the time he was talking about... broadcasting live video from his car.
In other words, many of these streams are self-referential. Of course, that will change as the Web anoints its jesters -- people whose lives are interesting to tune in to, and who are willing to exhibit their lives to the Web, as Justin Kan is doing.
It's cool that bloggers are experimenting with this medium, but my perspective it this: Being a blogger is a hard enough job. I don't I want to become a lifestreamer. I know for sure that my wife doesn't want me to . But is losing all shred of personal privacy going to become requirement for being an online commentator? Already I'm feeling a little weird about the items I'm posting on my Twitter feed .
If there's demand for it, I would look forward to broadcasting live interviews with people in the Web 2.0 community, and I think that's what streaming services, like UStream -- in combination with reliable high-speed, wide-area network bandwidth -- are going to be useful for. But I don't think it will be too long for lifecasting to jump the shark. I'm waiting for a major TV network to run a reality TV show where the participants wear hat cams. And for a Law and Order episode where a lifestreamer is murdered.
Rafe Needleman writes about start-ups, new technologies, and Web 2.0 products, as editor of CNET's Webware. E-mail Rafe .
Google is testing a new service that would allow consumers to post and make searchable any type of content , the company confirmed this week.
Screenshots of the "Google Base" service surfaced this week, immediately prompting speculation that the search giant was getting ready to take on...someone.
Was the new offering the precursor to a new e-commerce site that could wipe eBay and Craigslist off the map? Or maybe Google was developing a massive information storage service?
For its part, a Google spokeswoman stated that the site was merely experimenting with a way to "provide content owners an easy way to give us access to their content."
But as bloggers and analysts have had more time to think about it, one theme emerged--by combining search, commerce, community and other features, the new offering had the potential to be something far bigger than a simple online store.
Blog community response:
"Rather than scrape existing databases, Google is going to encourage people, businesses, and organizations to submit their listings directly to Google. This avoids any potential 'cease and desist' orders like the one that Oodle.com recently received from Craigslist.org for scrapping its listings. By actually owning a structured database that's clean from the start...Google can focus on what it does best--getting loads of consumers and businesses to use its services." -- Charlene Li's Blog
"I think if Google is simply aggregating user listings, like it aggregates text CPC ads, then Craigslist has less to fear from Google Base. If Google Base is going to build a community, like Tribe or MySpace, then everyone has a lot to fear." -- A VC
"Rather than create a bunch of distinct services, Google could potentially provide a platform, into which any number of files could be placed, accessed/shared, and saved. Picasa, GMail, Blogger, Google Maps, etc, etc, etc simply become inputs to your own database." -- Gary Stein
Margaret is news editor for CNET News, based in the Boston bureau. She also oversees the CNET Blog Network. E-mail Margaret .
If you thought gas prices were rising too quickly, check out what's been happening to text messaging.
Since 2005, rates to send and receive text messages on all four major carrier networks have doubled from 10 cents to 20 cents per message. This percentage of increase is on par with similar price hikes at the gas pump as crude oil prices skyrocket. In 2005, Americans paid on average about $2.27 per gallon for gas compared with more than $4 a gallon today.
Last October, Sprint Nextel was the first to introduce the new price of 20 cents per text message. AT&T and Verizon Wireless soon followed with their price hikes going into effect this spring. And this week Engadget reported that T-Mobile USA will match the other big three wireless operators in jacking up SMS texting rates to 20 cents per message. The price increase goes into effect August 29.
On Tuesday, AT&T announced that texting will cost new iPhone users more than it had previously. The old iPhone plan included 200 text messages in the $59.99 voice and data plan. But plans for the new iPhone 3G that hits store shelves next week will cost $5 extra for 200 text messages, bringing the total price of a comparable voice and data plan on the new iPhone 3G to $74.99 a month.
The new wave of price hikes comes just one year after all the major carriers raised individual text messaging rates from 10 cents a message to 15 cents per message.
So what's with the 100 percent price hike in two years? Well, there's nothing that has changed in terms of the cost associated with delivering this service. In fact, text messages cost carriers very little to transmit. And when compared with what carriers charge for transmitting other data services, such as music downloads or surfing the Web, the text messaging rates seem exorbitant.
Carriers limit the number of characters that can be transmitted in a text message to 160 characters. Each character is about 7 bits, which works out to a maximum of about 140 bytes of data per text message. This is peanuts compared with the size of sending or receiving an e-mail or downloading an MP3 song over a cellular network.
One blogger has done the math . If the same pricing was applied on a per-byte basis to downloading one 4MB song it would cost the user almost $6,000 to download a single song via SMS texting.
One can easily assume that the mark-up on a text message is several thousands times what it actually costs carriers to transmit this little bit of data, considering that mobile operators are only charging $30 to $40 a month extra for mobile data plans that offer 5MB worth of data per month.
The reason that carriers are charging so much for text messages is because they can. Even at 15 cents and 20 cents a pop, people are willing to pay for it. The carriers are also trying to get consumers to sign up for text messaging packages and unlimited plans that vary in price from $5 a month extra for 200 messages to $20 a month extra for unlimited texting on AT&T's network, for example.
The massive price markup on texting and the growing popularity of texting have resulted in huge profits for mobile operators. Verizon reported that for the first quarter of 2008 , its wireless customers spent $11.94 a month on data services, an increase of about 33 percent from a year earlier. The carrier didn't break out what percentage was spent on text messaging versus other services, but there's a good guess that a lot of the additional revenue from data came from texting. In total, mobile data accounted for about 20 percent of all wireless sales for Verizon's first quarter.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like consumers have much legal recourse for getting carriers to adjust their pricing to a more reasonable rate. There's nothing illegal about charging as much as the market will bear for any service.
But that doesn't mean that consumers like it. What do you think about the high cost of texting? Are you feeling the pinch in your wallet yet? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the "Talk Back" section below.
Of course, given that almost all locales are limited to at most two broadband carriers--the telephone and cable monopolies--there are already regulations that "limit consumer choice and investment in broadband facilities." The Justice Department seems to be tailoring its antitrust agenda in such a way as to serve the interests of certain big business interests and not the needs of the American people. If any company could enter the marketplace to offer high-speed Internet access then their position would at least be possible to defend. Were that the case, then people would be free to choose among a multitude of Internet offerings, some of which would likely offer neutrality while others would provide a preferential pipe. Only then would there be some teeth in the argument that the free market would ensure Americans get the best access at the best price. In reality, it is only the massive telecoms and cable companies that are able to provide high-speed Internet, and both camps have an economic incentive to abandon net neutrality.
As illustrated in Declan McCullagh's recent post on the Iconoclast, " Ten things that finally killed net neutrality ," the Bush administration has been instrumental in suffocating the call for a neutral net, and the recent DOJ statements are simply a continuation of this opposition.
In the release, the Justice Department attempts to equate the debate over net neutrality to that of the shipping grades offered by the U.S. Postal Service, "No one challenges the benefits to society of these differentiated products," the Department stated in its filing. "Whether or not the same type of differentiated products and services will develop on the Internet should be determined by market forces, not regulatory intervention." Despite the FCC's call for specific information on harmful broadband activities, the Department noted that comments filed in response to this Notice of Inquiry did not provide evidence that would suggest the existence of a widespread problem that needs to be addressed. In addition, there is no consensus on what "net neutrality" means or what should be prohibited in the name of "neutrality." This comparison is flawed and deflects the reality of the situation. While an individual may decide that it's worth spending $13.85 as opposed to $0.41 to ensure that a letter arrives overnight , he or she could also choose to send that same letter through an assortment of other delivery options. When it comes to the Internet, that competition is significantly reduced. While the additional $13+ to send something overnight is going to hurt many people's finances it is unlikely to deal a death blow. On the other hand, the costs associated to secure a reliable stream for videos and other media content will undoubtedly be at a much higher price point and will likely take many hobbyist media makers off line and out of the running for your time.
From the DOJ's perspective a neutral Internet is an affront to the economic free market, but eliminating net neutrality will simultaneously eviscerate the other free market: the marketplace of ideas. Unlike radio, television and print, the barrier to entry on the Internet is quite low. Anyone with a computer and Internet access can create a venue for their voice to be heard. With that said, should it really come as too much of a surprise that the Department of Justice under the Bush administration would express their opposition to a structure that allows opposition and minority views to be as accessible as that of the massive media corporations that dominate almost all communication venues?
In the midst of Ars Technica's review of the utility of free online music , the tech site notes something of critical importance to open source, too:As free music becomes common, though, the real battle will shift to marketing/press/PR. When a few acts are releasing free albums, it's easy for listeners to sample them; when everyone does it, artists are suddenly competing for people's time and attention, and even free downloads won't be enough to attract listeners without building some buzz.
Exactly. At one time it was enough to be the "open source Exchange" or the "open source Siebel" or whatever. No longer. There's simply too much open-source software out there to stand out as the "open-source XXXX." You have to market the "XXXX" if you want to have a hope of success.
Yes, open source remains a viable development methodology, one that can deliver exceptional software . But it's not enough. To be disruptive, open source also requires viral distribution. The hidden requirement in all of this is that someone has to care enough about the project in the first place to download it, and then talk about it and spur further distribution.
The "caring" aspect? That's marketing.
Open-source companies and community projects that don't invest in marketing will fail . This may not mean traditional marketing and, in fact, probably does not. But it must involve some element of getting the word out.
Otherwise, who will know to download and try it out?
Orgoo is a new service for aggregating all sorts of communication platforms together, in one solution. The easiest way to describe it is a mix between a Web mail client and an IM app. You might say, "well my Gmail and Yahoo Mail already have IM built in." To that I'd say you're right, but Orgoo's take is a little bit like Meebo --take all your existing services and integrate them together in one place.
To start out, just plug in any accounts you want to access. Orgoo will handle five of the major IM clients, along with a handful of Web mail providers including Gmail, .Mac , and Yahoo and Microsoft's premium Hotmail services. You can also drop in any old e-mail account that can be accessed via POP or IMAP. The service can save your passwords and login information, so every time you log in to Orgoo, it will pull in each and every account. I found it really helpful with Gmail, since I could be logged into several accounts at once--which usually requires juggling two different kinds of browsers.
Orgoo's interface is a mishmash of the classical mail inbox. Besides your e-mail reader, which takes on an appearance much like that of Yahoo Mail, you've also got an entire buddy list that resides on the right side of the screen. Orgoo employs drag-and-drop to organize your messages and IMchat logs, and you've got a list of folders which can contain several levels of user created nesting; meaning you can store a message within a folder within a folder within a folder, to your heart's content. You can also organize your IMs into tabs on the top, or pop them out if it's easier for you to manage.
Besides e-mail, Orgoo has a few neat features such as a video mail service that lets you record quick, 30-second messages. You can insert these into any e-mail . There's also live video chat with people on your buddy list, and video chat rooms to talk with several other users at once. The instant messaging portion of the app is really easy to set up, and scales multiple conversations as well as it can for a Web IM app, although once you're talking to about seven people or more, a single tabbed window would be a more elegant solution than tabs and pop-up windows.
The main drawback at this point is Orgoo's speed. The service simply isn't as fast at pulling up your Web mail as Gmail and Yahoo. If you're a Gmail buff, you're also missing out on the conversation view, and built-in calendaring integration. Despite these early shortcomings, Orgoo is on its way to being a really solid solution for integrating multiple chat and e-mail clients into one service--something that's convenient and useful for both power, and casual users with multiple accounts.
This service is launching at the TechCrunch40 conference this morning, although only opening up to a small group of individuals for private beta testing. If you'd like to sign up, you can visit their sign-up request page.Orgoo siphons in multiple e-mail accounts from all over. You've also got built-in multi-IM support right on the side of your inbox.