MediaFile

Frankfurt Motor Show tickets going once… going twice…

Some say the Frankfurt Motor Show, which started on Sept. 15, has lost a bit of its lustre amid the crisis that has hit the global car industry with an economic baseball bat. But there are still people out there who are willing to shell out the big bucks to go see the new car launches. One lucky bidder, identified only as i
l on www.ebay.de paid 158 euros ($232) for two tickets to get into the car show today, days before other mortals are allowed to pass through the big white doors leading into the halls of the show. There are 150 separate auctions for tickets to the car show, with sale prices starting at 7 euros for tickets valid on the days that are open to the public, which start on Sept. 19. So it looks like there are still plenty of people out there who are just wild about cars even though the government has to pay tightfisted consumers to buy a new one with their cash for clunkers programme. Would you pay that much to get a glimpse of  what the automotive industry has in store before others can?

from The Great Debate:

Can sleeping giant Skype reinvent itself?

eric_auchard_thumbnail2.jpg -- Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Do once-hot Internet start-ups who miss a date with destiny ever truly get a second chance? History says no, even for once-great names like Netscape, AOL and MySpace.

Skype hopes to be the exception. On Tuesday, a group led by top Internet financiers in Silicon Valley and Europe agreed to pay eBay $1.9 billion in cash for a 65 percent stake in the one-time web calling sensation.

The deal values Skype at a face-saving $2.75 billion, well above the $1.7 billion at which it has been valued on the ecommerce giant's books. Ebay also stands to keep a 35 per cent stake in the company.

Vonage CEO sees no reason for iPhone Google Voice rejection

The US telecom regulator FCC has been looking into why Apple rejected an Internet telephony application from Google for inclusion in its iPhone application store. Responses from Google, Apple and AT&T, the exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier, are due today.

Along with Google Voice’s consumer fans, the outcome of the inquiry will be closely watched by other Internet telephone services such as eBay’s Skype. Apple approved a Skype app for iPhone but consumers can only make Skype calls when they are connected to a short-range wi-fi network and not via the AT&T cellular network.
The head of another U.S. Internet telephony provider Vonage weighed in on the topic in an interview this week. Vonage plans to offer its own mobile communications application later this year.

Marc Lefar previously served as chief marketing officer of Cingular, now AT&T Mobility, where he helped put together the mobile operator’s iPhone deal with Apple, before becoming Vonage Chief Executive last year. Taking his previous experience in the wireless industry into acccount, Lefar said it was unclear to him why the Google Voice application was rejected for iPhone.

from Commentaries:

The European browser elections and other tech news links

Microsoft says the best way to resolve its dispute with European Union competition regulators may be an election.  The software giant spelled out late on Friday Brussels time plans for an election-style ballot to decide the question of which browser consumers use in Windows.

The forthcoming Windows 7 operating system would offer a "ballot screen" that lets consumers turn off Microsoft's own Internet Explorer (IE) and instead use rival browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari Google Chrome or Opera Software.

Microsoft browser ballot proposal

 There are two obvious issues with this approach: 1. Most consumers rely on default settings and rarely change their browsers once they are installed. Will more than a small percentage of users elect to change browsers at the moment they are installing Windows?

eBay to Skype: we’re no good together

Some tech mergers take a few years to prove their worth.

Hewlett-Packard’s $19 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer ignited a bitter internal board battle when it was announced in 2001, but is now deemed a key ingredient in H-P’s comeback.

No such vindication is on hand for eBay’s $2.6 billion purchase of Internet telephone service Skype: the deal left many scratching their heads when it was announced in 2005 and now it  looks like officially a poor fit in light of eBay’s plan to spin it off in an initial public offering next year.

“It’s clear that Skype has limited synergies with eBay and PayPal,” eBay CEO John Donahoe said Tuesday in a statement unveiling the plan.

from Shop Talk:

A suitor for Skype?

(Refiles to correct Donahoe's first name to John.)

TECH TAIWAN SKYPETo sell Skype, or not to sell Skype. That is the question for eBay, and Wall Street has diverging opinions on whether the San Jose company will or won't unload its Internet telephone service.
    
Skype was acquired under the reign of former CEO Meg Whitman (now a California gubernatorial hopeful) and touted as a nifty way for eBay's millions of sellers and buyers to connect. That reality never materialized, and current CEO John Donahoe has acknowledged that synergies between eBay and Skype are nonexistent.
    
Still, Skype is on a tear, growing at double digits and adding 350,000 global users a day. The five-year-old company logged $551 million in revenue in 2008 -- that number is expected to double by 2011 -- and is now a subject of great speculation by analysts, who wonder whether eBay plans to spin it off, or hold it close. 
                              
Cowan and Co's Jim Friedland, for one, thinks it's for sale. Writing in a note the day after eBay held an analyst presentation to outline the company's three-year plan, Friedland said it appeared "eBay was using the Skype discussion to trigger a bidding war between Google and Microsoft."
       
"We believe the asset would be attractive to both Google and Microsoft to enhance their web-based enterprise application services. In addition, Skype's user base of 405 million, which is particularly strong internationally, would likely strengthen Google's dominant position in the consumer web app market."

But Bernstein Research's Jeffrey Lindsay did not see it that way: "We think the dearth of buyers such as Google or Microsoft will mean that eBay is more likely to spin out part of Skype to the public (like Time Warner did initially with Time Warner Cable)."
    
Huh. Donahoe, incidentally, has said only that eBay will do what's best "to maximize Skype's potential and value."
    
Deutsche Bank's Jeetil Patel opined that, since Skype is performing well, "Management should hold on to this business model" and Credit Suisse's Spencer Wang said he did not see eBay rushing to sell.
    
"While we think the company would be open to parting with Skype at the right price (currently valued at $1.8 billion on eBay's balance sheet), a divestiture of Skype does not appear imminent," Wang wrote.

(Photo: Reuters)

from Shop Talk:

It’s open-mike day at eBay!

Wall Street technology investors spent much of Wednesday at eBay's San Jose campus listening to the online giant defend its company, especially its slowing marketplaces unit.

And for anyone doubting the relevance of eBay's site in today's crowded e-commerce field, Mark Carges, the chief technology officer of marketplaces, set them straight.

Walking the crowd through eBay's enhanced search functions, Carges showed a slide encapsulating what may very well be the best of eBay -- "A Hello Kitty wedding cake topper," he announced, to giggles throughout the auditorium.

Obama: Good for newspapers — today

NEW YORK – In the same way that the Philadelphia Phillies’ World Series win boosted Inquirer and Daily News sales last week, U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama is jumping in to help papers across the country survive.

People across the country flocked to convenience stores and newsstands snatch up copies of their local papers, which ultimately will prove the most enduring mementos commemorating the election of the first black president of the United States. It’s not a long-term game changer, considering that you can’t hold an historic presidential election every day, but it’s a nice sweetener for a bitter industry story.

Here’s just one example of how the day is shaping up: The New York Times is printing an extra 50,000 copies of today’s paper for the local market after completely selling out, according to spokeswoman Catherine Mathis. (See the Romenesko journalism blog for more details about heavy press runs at other U.S. newspapers.)

What’s new with the Redstone family?

sumner.jpgThe Redstone family knows drama. Late last week, Sumner Redstone’s family holding, National Amusements, announced that it was making a substantial stock sale in each of its key holdings, CBS and Viacom to comply with debt covenants. 

But the sale raised questions about whether some of the proceeds from the sales were actually earmarked to fund and expansion of National Amusements movie theater business, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Sumner Redstone’s daughter, Shari, who runs National Amusements, issued a statement to the Wall Street Journal denying that the stock sale had anything to do with expanding the theater business.

Ask.com goes for revamp — but will it work?

diller.jpg

Barry Diller is not backing down. The media mogul’s IAC/InterActiveCorp has once again relaunched its Ask.com search engine — aiming to increase its share of the lucrative Web search market.

Ask.com Chief Executive Officer Jim Safka told Reuters in an interview  that the revamped site — with its faster, better searches — would keep customers coming back for more. He said early tests showed a 16 percent increase in the rate at which customers returned to the search page.

The problem is that Ask.com has a long way to go. Google is the dominant Web search service in the United States, growing in August to more than 63 percent market share, according comScore, a Web audience measurement firm. Yahoo was second with a fall to 19.6 percent share and Microsoft dipped to 8.3 percent. Ask was fourth, growing slightly to 4.8 percent.