Listen to this article
Microsoft announced it will divide the company into three distinct units, giving fuel to the school of thought that it is feeling pressure from the nimbler and far more net-savvy Google.
MiniMicrosoft, the blog of an anonymous and usually frustrated Microsoft staff blogger was optimistic, saying “we’ve at least been thrown a bone” after watching an employee webcast by senior management about the restructure.
The FT’s John Gapper likened Microsoft’s aspirations to Muhammed Ali - the company wants to be a heavyweight that can move like a featherweight. But there are few examples of this.
Sony slashes and burns
Meanwhile another type of technology giant settled on a more brutal answer to its own woes. Sony will cut 10,000 jobs and close 11 manufacturing sites in a plan unveiled by Howard Stringer, who was recently appointed chief executive and is the first foreigner to lead the Japanese company. The move failed to impress the markets, however, and Sony’s share price fell after the plan was announced.
Google telecoms, WiFi, TV?
The ever-bountiful rumour mill surrounding Google went into overdrive this week.
First, reports of Google buying large amounts ‘dark fibre’ (unused telecommunications network capacity) gained ground, with several reports that Google acquired the rights to a huge amount of space at a “carrier hotel” for hosting communications equipment in Manhattan. Light Reading, the telco news site, quoted Hunter Newby, from carrier connection provider Telx, as saying Google’s telecommunications network plans appeared to be “huge” and “scary”.
An unidentified source told Light Reading that Google also planned to deploy a large amount of network infrastructure on the US West Coast, from where it would set up a direct link to Asia.
Google has so far declined to comment.
However it is a little more forthcoming about “Secure Access”, its beta offering of a free, secure WiFi access service. An FAQ on the Google website says the service was designed by a staff engineer and can only be downloaded from the Bay Area around San Francisco. The author of Eurotelcoblog, however, downloaded the application from London, and Business2Blog has collected reports of people being able to connect to the Secure Access service from Canada, Ohio, France, Germany, and Australia.
Even the television isn’t safe from Google’s all-encompassing reach. The Flexbeta website found Google advertising for a project manager for Google TV which prompted much speculation on Slashdot. Sadly the advertisement itself appears to have been removed.
Vonage talks IPO
Vonage added to the rapidly-heating VoIP speculation industry, putting out feelers for an IPO. However the FT understands that its advisers, UBS and Deutsche Bank, have suggested Vonage keep its options option regarding a sale.
Om Malik thought that Rupert Murdoch’s recent comments that he wanted News Corp to have VoIP capabilities “within weeks” could point to a match with Vonage.
News Corp was understood to have looked at buying Skype, but thought the multi-billion dollar price tag was too high.
This week Rupert Murdoch said News’ internet strategy would be announced “within weeks” and predicted that free telephone calls would be ubiquitous within two or three years - bullish comments, even by the standards of the current VoIP excitement levels.
Lenovo takes Thinkpad in new direction
Lenovo, the Chinese company that bought IBM’s PC and laptop business this year, made two significant announcements this week. The FT revealed that Lenovo planned to offer the iconic Thinkpad in colours other than its traditional black .
This was quickly followed up with news of a $400 PC - marking a strategy to more aggressively target small business computer users, in contrast to IBM’s strongly corporate leaning.
Jobs blasts music industry
Steve Jobs used a speech at the Apple Expo in Paris to lambast the music industry for wanting to raise prices for legal music downloads. Calling the music labels “greedy” for wanting to hike prices, he said more expensive downloads would lead to many people returning to pirated music. One major label has apparently already increased the price it charges Apple per song on its iTunes service, but Apple has absorbed the rise.
The New York Times in late August published a much-linked-to story about music labels putting pressure on Apple over iTunes song pricing - but as Techdirt points out, they wanted variable pricing rather than a straight-out price rise.