The Great Debate UK
2010 is a great time for the web. Innovation is thriving as new services and content flourish on smartphones and laptops, thanks in good part to industry leaders like Apple and Facebook.
But according to Tim Berners-Lee, - often called “ the father of the web” - the open and democratic structure of the web is threatened by sinister forces trying to redesign the web in ways that make it more closed for their own personal gain. These enemies of the web don't just include totalitarian governments. They include industry leaders like Apple and Facebook.
As the web turns 20, Berners-Lee has written a 3,800-word article for Scientific American celebrating its achievements and documenting threats to its future. Most of his words are dedicated to the threats.
The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.
from Reuters Investigates:
The world's biggest software maker once inspired fear in tech land. Today it's mostly yawns. Is Microsoft no longer a growth company? Should Google be nervous, too? And are Steve Ballmer's days at the helm numbered?
Seattle correspondent Bill Rigby's special report has some answers.
The iPad's destructive reach seems to be extending further and faster. Apple's tablet is taking off at a breakneck rate. Analysts now predict up to 40 million will be sold in 2011. With personal incomes and spending stagnant, it's looking like a zero-sum game in consumer electronics. Forget PCs and netbooks. The iPad will eat into camera and GPS device sales too.
How well the touch-screen gadget is really doing will become clear later this month when Apple reports its next set of quarterly results. But there are growing signs the company is selling way more of them than anyone outside Apple, or maybe even among Steve Jobs' inner circle, had been anticipating. It's clear the mini notebook computer market is being throttled. Netbook unit sales had been growing at more than 30 percent annually before the iPad was unleashed. Sales are now shrinking, according to market research firm NPD Group.
At Apple the gadget, not content, is still king. Nearly every day brings a new contestant in the emerging battle for the attention of the American couch potato. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and YouTube all want to serve up content. While Apple also rents out video, its new TV device allows users to stream rival services. Unlike the other players in the fast-moving video web arena, Apple's still all about the hardware.
Apple used to call its TV efforts a hobby. That's no longer the case. It latest gadget, which allows Internet video to stream on television screens, is smaller and appears easier to control than Apple's first entry to the field. And the increased content available -- ranging from Netflix's film library to Hulu's collection of television shows -- makes it far more useful. By chopping the price to $99 the device is also far more affordable.
The electronic book market is looking increasingly hot, flat and crowded. A vicious price war has broken out among producers of digital readers thanks to Apple's success with the iPad. Companies such as Amazon hope that selling tomes across multiple devices will fill the profit gap. But competition in e-book distribution is heating up and could pressure margins there, too.
Apple has sold more than 3 million iPads in about two-and-a-half months. While Amazon doesn't give figures, analysts think it has sold a similar number of its Kindle e-readers in two-and-a-half years.
Apple has taken another bite out of Nokia. As customers stampeded for the new iPhone, the Finnish cellphone giant warned of disappointing sales and operating margins. It lost another 9.7 percent, or about $3.5 billion, of its market capitalization on Wednesday. Nokia is increasingly at risk of becoming just a commoditized, low-margin manufacturer.
Nokia pinned the blame for its lower expectations on several causes: competition in high-end phones; the weak euro increasing the cost of goods sold; and a shift in product mix to low-margin devices. But it is smartphone competition that is really vexing the Finns.
-Fraser Macdonald is the editor of Stuff. The opinions expressed are his own.-
Deciding on the Cool List turns the Stuff office into a maelstrom. Our Gadget Awards, held later in the year, involves a straightforward categorised decision process.
Phone of the Year, for example, is one of the phones launched in the past year that meets all of the awards criteria. Easy.
Apple has just lent a hand to Google in the search giant's increasingly tense relationship with regulators. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission worries Google's proposed purchase of AdMob may extend its dominance of internet search advertising into the burgeoning mobile Internet space. Apple's latest iPhone operating system will give the government less to worry about.
The FTC's concern is understandable. Google could well use the profits for a near-monopoly in its original business to muscle into the promising mobile advertising market. That business is currently small -- total spending of around $400 million in 2009 was less than 2 percent of Google's revenues. But research outfit IDC estimates $1.9 billion of revenues by 2012.
Yet the tech trade creates a dilemma for the FTC and other antitrust regulators. As the long fight with Microsoft has demonstrated, once a monopoly is established, its huge economies of scale make conventional remedies ineffective. Officials need to strike before the competitive barriers are too high to tear down.
Apple has a reputation for developing hit products.
But the company also has a rep for maintaining an iron grip on its image and its message. Wednesday’s launch of the iPad, a product whose details have been closely guarded by Apple for months ahead of the launch, showed Apple’s operation at its best.
To the surprise of many, Apple CEO Steve Jobs turned up at the demo room after the main event and appeared to be casually hobnobbing with Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walt Mossberg.
- Simon Osborne-Walker is Stuff.tv editor. The opinions expressed are his own. -
On Wednesday, Apple will change the face of computing in the same way that it put an iPhone-shaped bomb under the mobile industry.
Rumour has it that we’re going to see a tablet computer that builds on the touchscreen iPhone interface that redefined what we expect from today’s technology. An iPhone on steroids, with a 10-inch touchscreen to offer the best compromise between portability and media browsing.