THE BROWSER: Truth and rumors from the tech world
Apple patents a Tablet Mac
The computer would have an iPod-like touchscreen, a patent filing indicates. Plus: Friendster's costly new friends.
By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 online editor

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) - While Microsoft (Research) has been pushing its Tablet PC operating system for a while, Apple (Research) has stayed away from the market -- so far. But there are increasing signs that Apple has a tablet computer on the drawing board. Engadget has uncovered an Apple patent filing for a tablet version of the Mac, showing an interface something like the touch-sensitive click-wheel found on the iPod. One challenge for an Apple tablet is conserving battery life -- but now that Apple has switched to Intel (Research) processors that consume less power, a Tablet Mac could be getting closer to reality.

Expensive people

An all-star cast of Silicon Valley's finest is struggling to keep Friendster afloat. The once-popular social networking website recently got an additional injection of $5 million to $12 million from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, according to the Techcrunch blog, but at a heavy cost: Techcrunch believes that other investors in the company saw their stakes sharply reduced due to a much lower valuation for this round of financing. Friendster's board includes KP's John Doerr, who backed Amazon.com (Research) and Netscape; Bob Kagle of Benchmark, who funded eBay (Research); and Tim Koogle, the former CEO of Yahoo (Research).

Will Survivor plans survive?

CBS is selling downloadable episodes of Survivor online for $1.99 apiece, and the Los Angeles Times is hailing the move as cutting out middlemen, much like Apple's iTunes Music Store. But the Make You Go Hmm blog points out that CBS is really only offering rentals, since the files expire after awhile. (iTunes videos, like DVDs, can be replayed endlessly.) Make You Go Hmm did the math: Waiting to buy the DVD of the next Survivor season is a better deal, as is (of course) recording it with TiVo (Research).

SAP's quiet push into on-demand

Tech writer Nick Carr explains why SAP, the big German maker of business software, is rolling out its on-demand software so tentatively. For SAP, aggressively marketing the on-demand version of its software, which customers access over the Web for a monthly fee, would call into question the value of its more expensive, and more lucrative, conventional software. "If I was SAP, the last thing I'd do is validate on-demand as the biggest trend in the software industry," says Credit Suisse analyst Jason Maynard. "They'd be crazy to do that."

February 2, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) -- The rich are different from you and me, but they still have money problems. Court documents recently revealed that Larry Ellison was carrying $1 billion in debt back in 2000. Said one online wag: "I wonder if he can call one of those debt counseling services you see on late night TV?" Bill Gates, meanwhile, has so much money that IRS computers can't handle it -- they send him notices saying that he hasn't paid his taxes, even though he has. ""My tax return in the United States has to be kept on a special computer because their normal computers can't deal with the numbers," Gates reportedly told attendees at a Microsoft conference in Lisbon.

Newspaper editors in search of a clue

After the World Association of Newspapers announced that it was examining ways to "challenge the exploitation" of newspapers by search engines, SearchEngineWatch editor Danny Sullivan lambasted the group. Sullivan, a longtime observer of the search-engine scene, points out that there are very simple technical ways for newspapers to block search engines from their websites. According to Sullivan, other news sources and blogs would be glad to pick up the search-engine traffic those newspapers would forego as a result.

Sony programmer fired for trashing PlayStation 3

Josh Robinson doesn't have kind things to say about the yet-to-be-released PlayStation 3 videogame console. That wouldn't be remarkable in the gaming world, except that Robinson, until recently, worked for a Sony (Research) division as a videogame artist. In a blog entry, Robinson reported the PS3 game he was working on would be delayed because of bugs in the system, and that in general people were having problems programming for the console. In a blog entry, Robinson reported development delays with the game he was working on because of bugs in the system severe enough to delay the March launch. When Sony executives got wind of the post, Robinson took it down, but was fired anyway. PlayStation 3 Week interviewed Robinson after the debacle.

Salesforce.com's hiccups lead to questions about the Web-based software model

Tech author Nick Carr says Salesforce.com's recent outages are putting the whole notion of delivering software over the Web to the test. Salesforce, whose main product lets companies manage their sales operations through a Web browser for a monthly subscription fee, has seen several outages that made its service was unavailable, including one this Monday. To deliver its software, Salesforce runs its own data centers and develops its own applications, but Carr wonders whether Salesforce.com should in fact be running its own data centers. He may have a point, since Salesforce.com CEO Benioff has said some recent outages were due to data center problems. But Carr's solution still wouldn't help in all cases: Benioff blamed a December outage on a software bug.

February 1, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) -- The Shuffle may not be long for this world. The tiny MP3 player, a favorite of gym-goers, is cheap at $129, but lacks a screen. It may soon be replaced by a 1-gigabyte version of the iPod Nano, according to UBS analyst Ben Reitzes. Currently, the smallest Nano has 2 gigabytes of storage, enough for about 500 songs, and costs $199. Adding a screen to the Shuffle, which Reitzes previously estimated only costs $8 more to manufacture, would make Apple more competitive on the low end of the MP3 player market. Reitzes also sees slow sales of Intel (Research)-based Macs for the first three months of this year. The analyst cut UBS's 2006 fiscal-year estimates for Mac unit sales by about 10 percent to 4.7 million.

Western Union stops sending telegrams

Did you get the message? Last Friday, Western Union discontinued sending telegrams, the product on which it built its name. After 155 years, the company decided there wasn't money in the business anymore. These days, the company mainly sells money-transfer services -- a market so lucrative that parent First Data Corp. (Research) is spinning Western Union off to shareholders.

Paying for broadband you never got

Wondering why your Internet connection is so slow? Techdirt writer Bruce Kushnick blames the phone companies for promising fiber-optic connections 30 times the speed of DSL and not delivering them. What's worse, Kushnick estimates that Verizon (Research), AT&T (Research), Qwest (Research), and BellSouth (Research) have received $200 billion in tax cuts and subsidies in exchange for fiber-optic connections that have not yet been built, putting the U.S. far behind countries like Japan and Korea in broadband adoption.

Google operating system unveiled

When last asked about rumors of a Google (Research) operating system, CEO Eric Schmidt groused that there was no need for Google to go build its own OS. Well, maybe there was no need, but engineers there--who are free to spend 20 percent of their time on side projects--created one anyway. Google spokeswoman Sonja Boralv admitted that Google had created its own version of Linux called Goobuntu, a variation of the popular Ubuntu Linux. She also noted that the company had no plans to distribute it to consumers and was just using it internally. Top of page

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.