MediaFile

Tech wrap: Facebook strikes a chord

Facebook unveiled new features that center on the way users listen to music and watch TV, offering tie-ups with the likes of Spotify and Hulu, as it attempts to make media an integral part of its service. The features, which also include ways for users to spiff up profiles in a magazine, photo-heavy style, were introduced on Thursday during Facebook’s annual f8 developers’ conference in San Francisco by Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.

For Facebook, a deeper integration of music, movies and other media into its service makes it more likely that users will spend more time on its site, enabling the company to generate more advertising dollars.

Serial entrepreneur and Stanford professor Steve Blank believes the moves by the world’s dominant social network are more of a threat to Apple than to Google.

Yahoo also debuted a new service on Thursday that lets its users share Yahoo news articles they and their Facebook friends have read, according to NYT’s Bits blog.

Hewlett-Packard Co named former eBay Inc Chief Executive Meg Whitman as its new president and CEO, replacing unpopular leader Leo Apotheker at the helm of the largest U.S. technology company.

Tech wrap: RIM’s missteps stir talk of sale

Research In Motion’s dismal quarterly results, the latest in a string of disappointments by the BlackBerry maker, could prove a boon to prospective buyers eyeing its treasure trove of wireless patents.

RIM’s shares took a beating on Friday, tumbling as much as 24 percent, a day after it reported earnings and issued an outlook that gave shareholders little reason to expect an imminent turnaround by the once proud Canadian technology giant.

Seven states have joined the U.S. Justice Department’s lawsuit to stop AT&T’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile USA, the Justice Department said.

A simple plan to save Yahoo, by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman

In Silicon Valley, it’s not tough to find someone to offer advice on how to save Yahoo, the struggling Internet portal that fired CEO Carol Bartz last week.
But one voice that the Sunnyvale, California-based company may want to pay attention to is Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn-turned-venture capitalist, and one of the most respected players in the fast-growing social networking market.
While investment bankers and private equity advisors are circling around Yahoo, looking for the best way to break the company into little pieces that can be auctioned off to the highest bidder, Hoffman thinks Yahoo may still be able to pull off a comeback.
“I think renovation and rebirth is possible and I think that’s the play you make,” Hoffman said, citing the Apple example, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Monday.
How would he do it?
First, Hoffman said he’d focus on investing the resources to make big technological innovations on Yahoo’s most popular online assets, such as its Web-based email product, Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Groups.
Then, he suggested, Yahoo to end its reliance on online brand advertising and get creative about how it makes money.
“There are other kinds of business models that I think we have yet to invent on the consumer Internet,” Hoffman said, citing Zynga, which has developed revenue from new sources, such as the sale of virtual goods that enhance the experience of Zynga games.
So there you have it, a simple two-step plan to revive Yahoo. Perhaps Reid Hoffman should call Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang directly…

Tech wrap: AOL talking merger with Yahoo?

AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong has reportedly approached private equity firms to gauge interest in a deal with Yahoo that would place Armstrong as the head of the combined company, according to a Bloomberg report.

CNBC later reported that a source close to Yahoo said the company had no interest in a deal with AOL.

AOL shares closed down 5.3 percent at $14.72 while Yahoo inched up 0.3 pct to $14.48.

Tech wrap: Google’s appetite for local grows with Zagat buy

Google bought Zagat, the popular dining recommendations and ratings authority, jumping into a niche Web market alongside the likes of OpenTable and Yelp. The 32-year-old Zagat, which polls consumers and compiles reviews about restaurants around the world, will become a cornerstone of Google’s “local offering” and work in tandem with its mapping services and core search engine, the Internet search and advertising leader said.

The Zagat acquisition also marks Google’s first foray into original content creation. Google had been accused of poaching user reviews from the likes of Yelp for use on Google Places pages, without providing a link back.

Only about half of Twitter’s 200 million-plus registered members log on daily but the microblogging website is chalking up growth of 40 percent every quarter in mobile device usage, CEO Dick Costolo said. Twitter is gearing up for a hotly anticipated initial public offering. But Costolo told reporters they would do so only on their own terms. Twitter.com now sees about 400 million unique visitors every month, a 60 percent leap from 200 million at the start of the year.

Maybe Carol Bartz should teach

Why not? With free time on her hands Carol Bartz should consider teaching high school math and science. Seriously. (Not in elementary school – the whole potty mouth thing won’t last there for long, and Bartz wouldn’t be Bartz without her salty swagger. But teenagers would love it.)

Now that she’s been ousted from her role as Yahoo’s CEO, I think the confessed math nerd should let her geek flag fly and inspire young people toward her favorite subject. And for girls in particular (and their parents), she has message: Stick to your guns.

About a year ago I asked Bartz if math was integral to her ascendancy to the CEO posts at Autodesk and Yahoo. Beyond my job a tech reporter, my reasons were selfish: my teen daughter has the math bug. I wanted to know if Bartz felt a well-used TI-83 graphing calculator was a vital weapon to carry if one aspired to business success.

Whither AOL and Yahoo?

About 1,000 years ago, while I was working at Reuters, I did a couple of really smart things: I bought shares in a dial-up Internet company with a mere million or so users, and a web search and catalogue service with a very funny name.

It wasn’t 1,000 years ago, of course, but it sure feels like it has been that long since buying shares in AOL or Yahoo would have been considered genius.

These now-iconic corporations more or less defined the heady, early days of the Internet boom, both as investments and as vast unexplored digital continents which, a few minutes before, hadn’t even existed.

Tech wrap: Facebook cashes in on ads

Facebook’s first-half revenue roughly doubled to $1.6 billion, underscoring the world’s largest social network’s appeal to advertisers, a source with knowledge of its financials told Reuters. Net income in the first half of 2011 came to almost $500 million, said the source, who wished to remain anonymous because privately-held Facebook does not disclose its results. Facebook’s stronger results come as investors have pushed its valuation to roughly $80 billion in private markets, with many industry observers expecting the world’s No. 1 Internet social network to go public in 2012.

Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock fired CEO Carol Bartz over the phone on Tuesday, ending a tumultuous tenure marked by stagnation and a rift with Chinese partner Alibaba. CFO Tim Morse will step in as interim CEO, and the company will search for a permanent leader to spearhead a battle in online advertising and content with rivals Google and Facebook. Some analysts said Bartz’s departure signaled the company had run out of options after failing to dominate the advertising and content markets and handing over its search operations to Microsoft.

Best Buy said it will offer products online from other sellers through a new third-party Marketplace as the electronics retailer tries to better compete with Internet rivals Amazon.com and eBay. Best Buy Marketplace will add roughly one-third more products online in time for the holiday shopping rush. Buy.com, Mambate, SF Planet, ANT Online, BeachAudio.com and Wayfair are the third-party sellers that signed up for the launch.

Should media owners rethink Hulu sale plan?

BTIG’s Rich Greenfield is an analyst who seems to have never met a contrarian debate on the media business he didn’t like. This morning, he turned his attention towards online video site Hulu, arguing in a research note that its owners should think twice about selling the business (subscription needed). First round bid for Hulu, which is owned by News Corp., Disney, Comcast, and Providence Equity Partners, are due Wednesday and are expected to reach as high as $2 billion.

In his note, Greenfield, known for his embrace of hyperbole, says selling Hulu is “a mistake of epic proportions.” He says Hulu is the perfect weapon for combating cable TV’s excessive ad load, supercharging on-demand TV, and for integrating social media’s impact on how consumers watch TV.

Greenfield asks why Hulu owners would sell now, at a time when Hulu is growing viewers, advertising and subscription revenues. As he sees it, on-demand online video is clearly the future and big media would be better served having a say in how the future of video distribution over the long-term is shaped rather than handing Hulu over to Google, Amazon, Yahoo or some of the companies that are supposed to be interested.

Tech wrap: Apple ousts Nokia as top smartphone vendor

Apple jumped to the top of the global smartphone sales rankings in the second quarter, ending Nokia’s 15-year run as the lead smartphone vendor, according to new research from Strategy Analytics. Apple sold a record 20.3 million iPhones during the quarter, which amounts to about a fifth of the global smartphone market. Impressive considering its iPhone 4 model was released more than a year ago. Samsung also surpassed Nokia to claim second spot, with 17.5 percent of market share. Nokia fell to third place as its market share tumbled to 15.2 from 38.1 percent a year ago.

As if Apple’s new royalty status isn’t enough, the gadget maker can also lay claim to being the most profitable in the smartphone business. According to a chart on Business Insider, Apple pulled in two-thirds of all profits in the mobile phone sector last quarter. That’s twice as much as Samsung, RIM and HTC combined.

Did Yahoo get a raw deal when it signed a pact with Alibaba and SofBank to resovle a dispute over online payment service Alipay? That’s the case being made by some analysts. The trio announced it had struck an agreement after months of wrangling over the lucrative asset, under which Alibaba gets up to $6 billion if the mobile payments firm goes public or gets sold. But investors are bothered by the deal, saying it reaffirms perceptions on Wall Street that Yahoo has little say in Alibaba, the e-commerce company founded by Jack Ma and which is 43 percent-owned by Yahoo.