Microsoft to Aquire Yahoo Search for 20 Billion… or not?


While the Times of London is reporting that Microsoft is close to announcing a Yahoo search aquisition at 20 billion with a slew of details suggesting they have a lot of inside information, Venture Beat is suggesting this might be a bogus report as they’ve been told by a key player in the deal, Ross Levinsohn, that he knows nothing of this.   Although it’s possible Levinsohn is … covering for the deal it seems odd he’d issue a flat denial if there was something to the rumors.

My wild guess is that the Times had a hot tip about one of the dozens of potential deals that are surely percolating around Yahoo as the stock (and thus buyout value) dips to very low levels, and that they ran with it rather than spend much time researching.   This has become a major pitfall of “real time” media, where there is increasing pressure to shoot first and hope your story is correct later.   Another possibility is that this is a carefully contrived rumor to pump and dump the stock on Monday – without more denials this is likely to spike Yahoo a few bucks or even more Monday morning.

Disclosure:  Long on Yahoo

Mashup Camp and Convergence08


Looking forward to two upcoming conferences – Mashup Camp and the very first Convergence 08 conference.

Mashup Camps have been coming to Mountain View for over two years, bringing great startups for their product launches as well as lively discussions about innovations and new products to help the mashup community. There also will be mashup experts from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon, and many more key players. Programmable Web has the best coverage of the Mashup topic.

Convergence will have even more provocative content as the first conference to address the intersection of four technologies likely to shape the world in extraordinary ways: Nanotechnology, Biological technologies (gene splicing, stem cells, DNS mapping, life extension) , Information technologies (internet and computing) and Cognitive technologies. This last would, I think, broadly include everything from brain enhancing drugs and devices to artificial intelligence. AI is the most exciting category for me, and I remain convinced that we’ll see conscious computers within about 20 years – hopefully and very possibly less. Conscious computing is likely to change the entire planetary game to such a degree it’s nearly impossible to predict what will happen *after that*, which is one of the issues that will be discussed at the conference.

My main concern is that proponents and predictions keep things real and this does not become a sort of brainstorming session for half-baked ideas and ideologies.

After millions of years of very slow biological evolution we’ve now entered a new age where technology is likely to eclipse most and probably all of our human abilities. Even that fairly obvious idea – which simply is an extension of current developments – leaves many people skeptical, cold to the idea, or even antagonistic about the changes that are coming. Like it or not … we are all in this together and it’s best to keep it that way as much as possible.

Google: Typosquatting for dollars. 32,000,000 of them


Google is helping to monetize interenet search misspellings, a technique that is estimated to make them 32-50 million per year.   It has also brought them a lawsuit from Edelman, the massive advertising consultancy who has no less than Wal-Mart as a client.

The technique involved is called “typosquatting” and is simply web publishers taking advantage of the many internet mispellings and mishits on keyboards to place advertising for terms like “computors” or “Girmany” or “uPhone” (where the user has accidentally hit the u instead of the i)

A study estimated that monetizing these domains via adsense ads (Google’s revenue share ad service) puts an extra 32-50 million to Google’s bottom line.

I don’t find this objectionable but not clear on the details of the Edelman lawsuit.  I’m guessing they want Google to direct people to the best sites for those terms and not charge rather than send the user to an intermediate site.

Silicon Alley Insider reports

ASUS eeePC 901


The EeePC 901 from ASUS looks very impressive based on the specs.   I’ve been using the original eeePC for several months and my two main concerns have been keyboard size (which I’ve become used to) and screen size (still a bit small for quality browsing).    Otherwise I’ve been impressed with the light weight, small size, and fairly error-free operation with the one exception of an early flash memory failure that required a reconfiguration and lost me 100+ Hong Kong photos.     Still, for $400 this unit was an amazing bargain compared to the 1500 or so I would have spent for a full blown Ultra mobile laptop in this weight class.

The new eeePC unit probably solves the screen size issue with a 9.1 incher vs the 7 inches and I assume a slightly larger keyboard.    The 3.75G access could really be a boon for those in areas where that will be supported, assuming a reasonable cost by providers.

I’m anxious to hear from folks who get this unit.   The mini Dell looks good as well, but if ASUS has created a comparable machine I’d be inclined to go with them over Dell based on my experiences with each company.

ASUS Press Release

More Copywrong News


Liked Matt Asay’s piece today about how poorly Government is comprehending issues surrounding copyright, especially in moves to extend the times which generally have little of the intended benefits to the artists but inhibit the much more significant process of moving all the world’s information online.

He’s noting that a European Union proposal to extend copyright a whopping 45 years will net artists on average an extra $40.    I’m assuming that number does not factor in the potential for those same artists to make money from derivative works that are much less likely to see the light of day under this proposal.

Although I’m not insensitive to the idea that online folks routinely violate copyright rules, and unlike many people I always groan when web 2.0 folks pretend that widespread unfair use is not common, it is also clear that the copycat is out of the bag and the most functional responses now are to develop systems that make sure artists can *track* and *claim ownership* when their works are used to make *other people money*.   ie I think we need to move away from models that restrict use into models that *encourage* uses and derivative works but give the original artists powerful tools to claim ownership and claim a piece of the action if their derivative works are used to make money.

Sure, there are pitfalls here but the original idea of copyright is now obsolete, yet we keep trying to fit the new pegs into the old holes.

Google’s “Google Chrome” Browser


Update:  Google Chrome is now available.   I’m only starting to test it but it seems very, very fast, intuitive, and impressive.

——–  earlier ———–

Google will soon launch an internet browser in what promises to be one of the most significant online developments in some time.  Based on the comic book intro they’ve used to warm up users to the new application, Google Chrome will effectively turn the browser into an operating system.    Perhaps the most significant change is that Chrome will open new tabbed windows for each application it runs (much like MS Windows).    This feature should help isolate problems during browsing and Google says it will create a superior environment for running the many embedded applications that are now part of a typical browsing session.    I’m not clear yet if this is fundamentally different from opening several internet explorer or FireFox browser windows which is also fairly typical.

In any case Google’s entry into the browser market is likely to shake up the online landscape, where only FireFox and Microsoft IE Explorer have any significant market share at about 20% for FF and about 79% for Microsoft IE.    Google promotions of Firefox have been largely responsible for it’s success, so it’ll be interesting to watch how this move affects the browser equation.

Browser software does not monetize directly, but since it is the gateway to the internet it’s a key part of the online revenue equation.   Were it not for the antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft it is almost certain that MS would have a much greater search market share as they could have made it much more difficult for users to change their search choices and could have taken advantage of the integration of the browser and the Windows operating system.   Thanks to the rules imposed in the Microsoft lawsuits and Google’s superior search, Google has been eating Microsoft’s search lunch for years.   This move, unless it backfires, will consolidate Google’s search dominance at the expense of MS and to a much lesser extent Firefox, which is an open source non-profit but also makes tens of millions each year from Google search revenues which are likely to diminish as people move to Google Chrome.

Redbox Rocks – Brilliant!


Although it’s probably a transitional mode of movie distribution until streaming becomes the preferred mode – probably in 3-4 years, Redbox really puts conventional movie stores to shame when you want a popular title.

The friendly big movie boxes are located at heavy traffic stores like Wal Mart, and offer popular titles (as well as a limited selection of older films) at only $1.    The combination of a very intuitive and simple touchscreen interface, credit card scan, networking and the “robotics” of the Redbox are impressive to me.  The entire system seems well designed to eliminate the challenges that face other touch systems – clunky navigation and printer problems.   No printer problems at RedBox because they don’t use one – instead you are emailed both when you rent and when you return.

Another innovative solution is to avoid the frustrating and usurous “late fees” by simply charging a dollar a day – the standard low rental rate – until 25 days after which you own the movie.   This is an approach likely to get some revenues from movie sales and avoid pissing off customers who forget or keep the film for a few extra days.   I’d guess the optimal “you’ve bought it” number is lower than this – probably about $12 or so – but to know that you’d have to have information such as the cost to replenish titles in the machines, cost of lost revenue before titles are replenished, etc.    I’m assuming that RedBox’ largest long term cost is the human interaction needed to maintain and load the machines.

———- Return receipts are emailed immediately ——-

Dear JHUNKINS@GMAIL.COM:

Your copy of “Cloverfield” was successfully returned on 7/11/2008 11:30 AM.
Your return was on time. You will receive a receipt via email when we process your account.

Thanks for using Redbox!

Return Details

Barcode: 0—-6
Transaction ID: 13—1
Return location: Wal-Mart (view inventory here)
300 W Valley View Rd
Talent, OR 97540-9629
Rent date/time: 7/10/2008 1:16 PM
Due date/time: 7/11/2008 9:00 PM
Return date/time: 7/11/2008 11:30 AM
Questions? Comments? Contact Redbox Customer Service

Phone: 1-866-REDBOX3
Email: questions@redbox.com
FAQ: http://www.redbox.com/Help/Faq.aspx

DVD rentals cost only $1.00 + tax until 9:00 PM the next evening, then $1.00 + tax for each night thereafter. After 25 days, rental charges will cease and the DVD is yours to keep.