MediaFile

Egypt’s Internet gambit misfires. Surprised?

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As China prepared to quell the Tienanmen Square protests in 1989, the government of Deng Xiaoping made a crucial tactical decision: It ordered western networks to shut down their satellite trucks, making sure the violent end to the revolution would not be televised.

As Egypt tried to contain nationwide protests this past weekend, the government of President Hosni Mubarak at first did nothing to stanch the endless real-time flow of street-level video showing angry, violent confrontations.

Instead, they turned off the Internet.

China’s ruthless approach handed the regime an enduring propaganda victory, of course. Even though hundreds of peaceful protesters were mercilessly mowed down when the military swept through Tienanmen Square, the most iconic image of the crackdown is downright peaceful: A tank commander refusing to challenge a single, unarmed civilian who would not yield.

On the other hand, for all the democratizing power the internet provides, Egypt’s decision to shut the internet door shortly after midnight Friday (along with much wireless service), while technically effective, was entirely ineffectual. And as for TV: It was only on Sunday that Cairo moved to silence Al Jazeera, which had been broadcasting non-stop, in what one hopes is not prelude to a Tienanmen Solution.

It all gets down to critical mass. Twitter and Facebook are peerless accelerants, but when you can look out of your window to see where the protesting is going on (to paraphrase veteran NBC correspondent Richard Engle) the power of the internet is dwarfed by pure people power.

Wild news on Apple, Google changes? Not if you’re an analyst

It has certainly been an interesting week in Silicon Valley as two of the most closely watched companies in the world shuffled their executive suites. On Monday, Apple announced that its chief executive  and charismatic leader Steve Jobs was taking a temporary medical leave – his third since 2004  — a day before Apple released its quarterly results.  On Thursday, Google reported a stellar Q4 and dropped that Larry Page would be stepping into the role of chief executive, as Eric Schmidt takes up the executive chairman position.

Big news, right? So it’s surprising then that analysts who have the opportunity to quiz management during earnings calls failed to mention anything about the changes. Not one analyst asked about the C-suite during the Google and Apple calls. Google even made its three top executives, Schmidt, Page and Sergey Brin available for short period on Thursday’s call. The three analysts in the queue pitched questions about the following subjects:  Google’s real estate purchase in New York,  government outreach and social networking plans.

from The Great Debate:

Google’s greatest skill – and challenge

GOOGLE/

By Jeff Jarvis
Jarvis is the author of "What Would Google Do?" and teaches at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His next book, "Public Parts", will be published later this year. The miracle of Google was that it could accomplish anything—let alone become the fastest growing company in the history of the world and the greatest disruptive force in business and society today—while being run by a committee, a junta, a council of the gods. In management, as in every other arena of business, technology, and media, Google broke every rule and made new ones. It should not be a shock that Eric Schmidt has stepped aside as CEO and made room for Larry Page. Schmidt was the prince regent who ruled until the boy king could take the throne while training him to do so. We knew that this would happen. We just forgot that it would. When I interviewed Schmidt a few weeks ago and asked about pressure over privacy, China, and lobbying, he said, “This is not the No. 1 crisis at Google.” What is? “Growth,” he said, “just growth.” Scale is Google’s greatest skill and greatest challenge. It scaled search (vs. quaint Yahoo, which thought it could catalogue this web thing). It scaled advertising (vs. the media companies that today don’t know how to grow, only shrink). It is scaling mobile (by giving away Android). It has tried to scale innovation (with its 20 percent rule)—but that’s the toughest. How does Google stay ahead of Facebook strategically? The war between the two of them isn’t over social. The next, great scalable opportunity and challenge is mobile, which in the end will translate into local advertising revenue. Mobile will give Google (or Facebook or Groupon or Twitter or Foursquare … we shall see) the signals needed to target content, services, search, and advertising with greater relevance, efficiency, and value than ever. As Schmidt told broadcasters in Berlin last year: “We know where you are. We know what you like.” Local is a huge, unclaimed prize. The question is how to scale sales. I have no special insight into the Googleplex. But I have to imagine that when the company’s three musketeers sat down and asked themselves what impediments could restrain their innovation and growth, they were smart enough and honest enough to finally answer, “us.” As well as their holy trinity worked setting strategy and reaching consensus—the one thing I did hear from inside Google was that nothing happened if they did not agree—it has become apparent that Google became less nimble and more clumsily uncoordinated. Google is working on two conflicting and competing operating system strategies, Android and Chrome. It bungled the launches of Buzz and Wave. It is losing talent to Facebook. It needs clearer vision and strategy and more decisive communication and execution of it. If it’s obvious to us it had to be obvious to them that that couldn’t come from Largey- plus-Eric. Google, like its founders, is growing up. It needs singular management. So let’s hope that Schmidt did his most important job well—not managing but teaching. Now we will watch to see who Larry Page really is and where his own vision will take Google. Will he give the company innovative leadership and can Sergey Brin give it leadership in innovation? I imagine we will see a new support structure for Page built from below now rather than from the side. I’m most eager to see how he will cope with speaking publicly for the company. Schmidt’s geeky sense of humor was not grokked by media. (When he set off a tempest in the news teapot saying we should all be able to change our names at age 21 and start over with youthful indiscretions left behind us, he was joking, folks. Really, he was.) Page is even less show-bizzy. As for Schmidt: I have gained tremendous respect for him as a manager, thinker, leader. His next act will likely surprise is more than today’s act. Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?, teaches at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His next book, Public Parts, will be published later this year.

The miracle of Google was that it could accomplish anything—let alone become the fastest growing company in the history of the world and the greatest disruptive force in business and society today—while being run by a committee, a junta, a council of the gods.

In management, as in every other arena of business, technology, and media, Google broke every rule and made new ones.

New York Times aware of buggy iPhone app

iPhone Frequent users of the New York Times iPhone application likely have noticed that the app has been a bit buggy of late. The New York Times developed a nicely designed means to get the latest news on your smartphone — when you can update it that is. 

This reporter, who uses the app almost daily and depends upon it to catch up on news during subway rides, noticed that the app is having problems refreshing.  Apparently others have noticed too. 

A sample of some comments about the NYT from Apple’s App store:

 

  “Freezes a lot”

“Cmon nyt pls fix the “no update” problem otherwise it’s a great app” 

Verizon’s iPhone antenna ‘death grip’ proof?

vzapplOn the face of it, the iPhone 4 unveiled by Verizon Wireless on Tuesday is pretty much the same device that AT&T has been selling. It costs the same, and features essentially the same bells and whistles — with the nice addition of a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, that allows up to five other devices to share its wireless signal.

But the blogosphere quickly picked up on one intriguing change in Verizon’s iPhone: the all-important antenna, which wraps around the device. You can see some pics from Gizmodo here, highlighting the differences between iPhones offered by Verizon and AT&T.

You will recall that the antenna for AT&T’s iPhone was the source of quite the uproar last summer, when some users complained of poor reception and dropped calls when holding the device a certain way.  The issue unexpectedly snowballed, giving rise to such memorable phrases as “Antennagate” and “iPhone 4 death grip.” Of course, none of it seemed to dent iPhone sales.

Liveblog: Verizon set to launch the iPhone. Finally.

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Verizon is set to launch the iPhone today — January 11, 2011 at 11am ET. Cheeky.

Will antennagate be fixed? Will Verizon launch a 4G version by summer? Will Steve Jobs make an appearance on stage or by hologram? Can Verizon Wireless’ network survive the crush? Will AT&T customers in San Francisco stop dropping calls?

We’re live blogging and analyzing the event today. Joining us for the liveblog from New York will be NPD analyst Ross Rubin, Gartner’s Michael Gartenberg and Ritsuko Ando, Reuters correspondent. Sinead Carew of Reuters will also be on scene in New York covering the announcement.

Today In Music: MySpace’s entertainment focus to lead to job cuts. Tomorrow perhaps?

We’d previously heard that MySpace is on course to cut jobs soon and AllThingsD today put that number at around 550 to 600 jobs and promises the announcement will be coming tomorrow.

The way one person familiar with the company’s thinking puts it, MySpace will be restructuring to realign its staff better with its new focus as a social entertainment site targeting Generation Y. It would also give it an opportunity to resolve various legacy issues.  Being a social entertainment site would probably be an easier path than as a social networking site on a hiding to nothing versus the all mighty Facebook but there are probably still questions about how it will make its money beyond advertising. MySpace despite its troubles still remains a key venue for promoting established bands and thousands of aspiring musicians.

The other story from AllThingsD is that News Corp, as we’ve reported,  is also being considered for sale but ATD (which is also owned by News Corp) points out that the parent company is shopping MySpace primarily to private equity buyers though Yahoo is also being considered.

CES: Please turn off your phones and your Wi-Fi

English literature teachers, please tell me if I’m wrong to call this ironic.

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is all about technology, and pack journalists and tech experts all over the world say that wireless will be the next big boom. So why are various companies at this year’s CES begging and in some cases instructing people not to use their wireless devices or their Wi-Fi connections?

Here’s an email that my colleague Alexei Oreskovic received.

Alexei:

We have all heard of or experienced Wi-Fi challenges at high-profile events.

Please help our sponsors demonstrate their products. We ask you to turn off your phone before you enter Showstoppers tonight. If you can’t do that, please turn off Wi-Fi access on your smartphone and other mobile devices, including all mobile hotspot devices and anything else that acts as a mobile access point.

Apple’s Mac Store cuts the clutter

a screenshot of Apple's Appstore. REUTERS/ Apple Inc1000 apps might not seem like a lot compared to the 300,000 offered for Apple’s iPhone, but there’s enough on offer at Apple’s new Mac App Store to cover most software bases, some of it deeply discounted.

The Mac App Store interface is easy to navigate, much like the iPhone and iPad sections on iTunes, with app icons arranged in rows.

However, if you’re not running OSX Snow Leopard on your Mac, you won’t even get that far. The store isn’t offered on computers running older Mac operating systems. The solution is to upgrade your OS, but that will run you $29. And you can’t download it, so you’ll have to have it shipped to you or pick it up at one of Apple’s retail outlets.

AOL aspires to be a 1990s publishing powerhouse; arms dealer

Tim Armstrong AOL

Tech nerds and gadget geeks over the age of 35 should have no trouble recalling the company Ziff Davis – a former publishing powerhouse home to such magazines as Computer World, PC Week and Red Herring. Ziff’s glory days were in the 1980s and 1990s and it scaled dizzying heights as its magazines groaned under the strain of advertising. Media observers would weigh issues of say Computer World for sport not unlike putting the September issue of fashion mags on the scales.

In 1995, a majority of Ziff was sold to SoftBank for $2.1 billion. Yet, Ziff’s storyline is familiar to a wide swath of Silicon Valley companies that prospered in the late 90s.  The tech bubble popped and by the late naughts Ziff Davis Media headed to bankruptcy court.

Ziff Davis is apparently on the mind of Tim Armstrong (pictured) . The AOL chairman and CEO invoked the company yesterday during his presentation at the Citigroup Media, Entertainment and Telecom conference.