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Saturday, April 24, 2010

'Let us launch apps' says BBC technology chief

Erik Huggers, the BBC’s technology chief, believes the BBC Trust should allow the corporation to launch its news and sport phone apps – with a decision just ‘weeks’ away. The two free BBC News and BBC Sports apps, would have been available to download by now, as they were due to launch in Apple's App Store in April just ahead of the election. However, at the end of March 2010, the BBC Trust asked the corporation to delay its plans, while it carried out a market assessment, following representations it had received from the media industry, claiming the apps would ‘distort’ the market.

The Trust did not name of any of the organisations it had been approached by, but the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) publicly accused the BBC of barging into the app market and trampling over commercial news firms which were exploring this growth area, after the corporation announced it app ambitions at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona during February 2010.

Talking to The Telegraph, Huggers, the director of Future Media and Technology at the BBC, said: “I think, from my point of view, the BBC wouldn’t have been as bullish as it was about the developments of these apps if it didn’t think they were within the remit of the corporation…

“I look at it from the consumer’s point of view – when using a small form factor, like a mobile phone screen, a browser is not the best way to display information – whereas apps work much better and have created a new user paradigm. The BBC has always over the last 10 years repurposed the same content to suit different devices in the best way. This is no different.”

Huggers added that the apps would be ready to launch on the iPhone “almost immediately” should the Trust come back with a positive result.

A BBC Trust spokesman said that the assessment was being pushed through speedily and a result would be delivered within ‘weeks’ rather than months. The Trust has already spoken to the BBC Executive on this matter and is continuing its examination.

The BBC Trust is examining the plans in four areas: “the extent to which the change is likely to affect users and others; the financial implications of the change; the extent to which the change would involve the BBC in a new area of untested activity; and how long the activity will last,” according to its statement released in March.

The BBC has said on occasions prior to this that it was satisfied it was allowed to reuse online content for phones.

A spokeswoman has previously said: ''We believe the BBC Online service licence is quite explicit in allowing the BBC to repurpose its online content for consumption on mobile devices, something the BBC has successfully executed for a decade for the benefit of the licence fee-payer.''

David Newell, director of the NPA, said at the time of the announcement of the Trust’s assessment: "It is vital that these proposals are scrutinised properly to avoid any adverse impact on commercial media organisations.

"We are pleased that the BBC Trust has listened to the industry's concerns and acted to delay the planned April launch.

"We hope this will enable a thorough assessment to be undertaken."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Five robots we wish were real ... and five we're glad aren't

It's National Robotics Week, a time when students, scientists and others in the technology community celebrate the increasingly important role that real-world robots are playing in our lives.

Militaries use robots to attack enemies and destroy land mines. Private companies sell robots that let their users see, hear and talk remotely.

Just this week, NASA and General Motors announced that they'll work together to send a human-like robot to the international space station.

It's advances like those that spark the imagination. That makes us wonder: Could the robots who've entertained us in science fiction one day become a reality?

In most cases, the answer is, "Of course not."

Science likely won't ever give us a booze-swilling, cigar-smoking robot like Bender from "Futurama" or the alternately sexy, cunning and deadly androids of "Blade Runner."

But it's fun to imagine, right?

For centuries -- Leonardo da Vinci's notes show he was working on an automaton in 1495 -- we've had a love/hate relationship with robots.

We're both fascinated with all the good they could do and terrified of what would happen if they got too smart.

So, in the video graphic above, we take a look at five science-fiction robots we wish were real and five we're really glad are just make-believe.

Plenty more robots deserved a spot on this list. Let us know in the comments section which of our robot overlords ... er ... friends you would have included.

Google Announces Q1 Earnings, Beats Analyst Estimates But Shares Drop

This afternoon Google released its earnings for Q1 2010.

The company beat analyst expectations, though the stock has fallen nearly 5% in after-hours trading as some investors were hoping for more. Revenue was up 23% for $6.77 billion, with net revenue at $5.06 billion (estimate was $4.93 billion). Net income rose 37% to $1.96 billion, or $6.06 EPS; non-GAAP EPS was $6.76, beating estimates of $6.60.

66% of total revenue, or $4.44 billion, came from Google-owned properties, with 30% ($2.04 billion) from partner sites through AdSense. Paid clicks were up 15% Y/Y and cost-per-click was up 7% Y/Y.

Google has $26.5 billion in cash, and has grown to 20,621 employees up from 19,835 at the close of 2009 — in other words, they’re hiring.

Below are my notes from Google’s conference call, which included responses from:
CFO Patrick Pichette
SVP, Engineering Jeff Huber
VP of Product Management Susan Wojcicki

Note that CEO Eric Schmidt was not on the call, and likely won’t be in the future (though the company says this was merely a matter of streamlining and that there’s nothing to read into it).

High level thoughts – As we enter 2010, it’s clear that the digital economy is continuing to grow rapidly. We are continuing to invest heavily in people, product, and acquisitions. We’ve already stepped up hiring. We have a strong pipeline of candidate, primarily in Engineer and sales. On Product we continue to push the envelope on two fronts: User experience and Ad Business. Acquisitions: we’ve been very active this year and have a strong M&A pipeline in place.

Wojcicki: Starting about a year about we asked ourselves why search ads had to be text links. In many cases it may be more interesting if we show a video/product in the ad. Search the movie Losers and you may see a video ad. Search Toys R Us and you get promoted site links. CTR on site links up 30-40%. Launched search funnel earlier this year. In display business, on platform side we launched new version of DoubleClick. Our new ad exchange has real-time bidding. As users transition to smartphones with mobile browsers, want to make it easier to extend campaign to those devices.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

iPad Mania: Crowds Flock to Apple Stores

It's iPad day!

Apple (AAPL) fanatics lined up outside Apple stores from coast to coast Saturday, hoping to get their hands on its hottest new gadget, the iPad tablet computer. At the store in New York's SoHo neighborhood, eager customers arrived early for the product's release, and by midday, the line still stretched around the block.

Youssouf Diallo (pictured), who emerged from the store grinning and clutching an iPad, says: "I bought it for my son, who goes to John Jay College." Diallo is originally from the Ivory Coast but has lived in New York for over two decades.

"He's going to use it in the library," Diallo says, beaming.

Pre-Orders Sell Out

The first iPads cost $499 to $699, depending on options like hard-drive space. Later models will include 3G mobile broadband at a higher price.
Buying on Faith

Demand was also strong at other New York locations. Needham & Co. analyst Charlie Wolf told The New York Times that during his visit to Apple's Fifth Avenue store, "customers were awed by their first encounter with the product."

"Weekend sales will exceed 300,000 units, and they might approach 500,000, although that's a stretch depending as much on the initial production run as initial demand," Wolf says.
Can Momentum Be Sustained?

Along with those purchasing gifts, like Diallo, the first wave of buyers are clearly Apple fanatics and "early adopters," who represent about 15% of the population, according to analysts. These people tend to be younger, wealthier, and more tech-savvy than other consumers.